The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports on discussions in the U.S. Senate, which appear to now involve both Colorado U.S. Senators, on possible "fixes" to solves problems associated with the troubled rollout of the new Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces:
Senate Democrats facing tough reelections say President Obama has not done enough to fix the botched rollout of his healthcare law and are vowing to repair it themselves.
The Senate Democratic leadership is not on board with lawmaker plans to begin rewriting ObamaCare and have urged for more time to assess the changes made by Obama and his team, lawmakers say…
“The [ObamaCare implementation] upgrade has been significant, but there’s more work to be done,” said [Sen Mark] Udall.
“Sen. Landrieu, Sen. Heitkamp, Sen. Shaheen and I are all working on a package that would incorporate our ideas,” he added.
Shaheen wants to extend the enrollment period for the ACA; Landrieu wants to mandate that insurance companies continue to offer plans that people like, even if they don’t meet the law’s requirements; and Udall wants to expand the pool of people included in the individual insurance marketplace.
Last month, Sen. Mark Udall's proposal to temporarily allow Americans to renew health insurance plans not in compliance with the Affordable Care Act's reforms raised some eyebrows, and this ongoing discussion about changes to the law isn't likely to sit well with many health care reform proponents. Just after Udall's first proposal came out, research from Udall's own office found that the vast majority of "cancellations" in Colorado actually weren't–most of the affected consumers on the individual market had indeed been given the option to renew their existing coverage into 2014. Nonetheless, the slow pace of marketplace insurance signups in Colorado and elsewhere, still more attributable to technical problems than any other factor, is growing increasingly urgent as deadlines approach.
To a certain extent, there's a need now for Democratic proponents of health care reform to accept that the protracted startup problems for the exchanges are causing real problems for citizens, that may indeed require fixes beyond what the Obama administration can do without Congress. That doesn't mean any of these current ideas from swing-state Senators will become law, between defensive Democrats and belligerent Republicans determined to not help fix a law they believe to be inherently evil. We also like the sound of what Udall is proposing based on this report better than Sen. Mary Landrieu's idea to simply allow noncompliant health insurance to be sold in perpetuity. But between the legitimate problems that exist today and the GOP's dogmatic resolve to kill the entire health reform law by any means necessary, a middle ground desiring to fix, but not repeal Obamacare, may well emerge as the political sweet spot in this debate.
The one other point we'll note from this Hill story is the role of Colorado's junior Sen. Michael Bennet in these discussions. Though considered a centrist, Bennet's close relationship with the White House, and status as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, signal to us that these discussions have at least a liaison talking to the Obama administration. Politically, the thing to keep in mind is that Sen. Udall is on the ballot in 2014, not Obama–and though we absolutely believe they share a common goal of successful health care reform, a little judicious triangulation off Obama and the recent troubles with Obamacare may not be such a bad idea.