WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been offering bills aimed at addressing the new health care law’s woes, even as the Obama administration tries to offer its own fixes.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., made a pitch Thursday for his legislation, which would require the administration to provide weekly updates on how many people are using the glitch-plagued federal website to sign up for health insurance plans.
Administration officials have said they will provide that kind of information on a monthly basis. The first of those monthly reports was released Wednesday and showed relatively few people have signed up for plans.
At a House subcommittee hearing Thursday, Terry touted his bill and questioned how the administration can be trusted to run a health care system if it can’t run a website. He noted that his legislation would require information be provided to Congress, the public and state insurance commissioners.
“It will keep insurance commissioners at the state level and the American people involved in this act and they will be able to sort through the details and that will help regain the trust,” Terry said.
Other health care-related proposals abound, including one by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., to grandfather in insurance policies that don’t meet new requirements under the health care law.
President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he would move to allow insurance companies to continue offering plans that would otherwise be prohibited under the new law.
But Republicans lawmakers scoffed at that announcement, saying Obama was simply trying to put the issue off until after next fall’s midterm elections.
“This president’s obvious political agenda nearly makes me want to retch, makes me ill,” Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said during Thursday during his weekly conference call with reporters.
Johanns said Obama has shown “an indifference to what the American people are going through.” He suggested that the president is only interested in aiding the political fortunes of incumbent Democrats on Capitol Hill, who Johanns described as abandoning the law in droves.
“You have Democrats jumping off Obamacare like rats trying to get off a sinking ship,” Johanns said. “They are in a panic.”
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said she is backing a permanent solution to the problem in the form of legislation by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
“It’s a temporary fix, it doesn’t solve anything,” she said of the president’s plan. “It just pushes it back to take the pressure off of him and his party and it doesn’t address anything.”
Republicans focused Thursday on sharing stories of individual constituents who have written their offices complaining about canceled policies and higher premiums under the new law.
“What will it take for the president to admit the law isn’t working and at least call for a full delay?” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. “The president should work with Congress on something bipartisan that would address health insurance problems without disrupting what does work in our health care system.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has stood by the law and said Congress should leave it alone. In particular, he has said that Americans with “junk plans” that don’t fit the new requirements should not be able to keep them.
Harkin issued a statement Thursday suggesting that he might not have favored Obama’s decision to let insurance companies continue offering plans that do not meet new requirements. He urged everyone who has received cancellation notices to consider their options.
“In the vast majority of cases, they will find that the coverage that they were paying good money for is not worth the paper it was printed on,” Harkin said. “It will not cover them if they are hospitalized, if they need expensive prescription drugs to treat an illness or a chronic condition, or if they have a pre-existing condition. If they go to the marketplace, however, they can get quality coverage — in some cases paying a little more, perhaps, but getting many more benefits.”
Harkin cited the case of an Iowa woman whose son saw his policy canceled — but realized he had been paying $200 a month for an totally inadequate plan. He said the man now has a better policy through the new law that costs him only $125 a month.
“In the coming months, we will hear from even more Americans — like the stories I am hearing from Iowans — who are taking advantage of this coverage,” Harkin said.