WASHINGTON — As with most matters related to health reform, where Nevadans in Congress stood on President Barack Obama’s latest fix depended on where they sit.
Those sitting on the Democratic side characterized it as a necessary move by the president to keep Obamacare moving forward and keep his promise, albeit belatedly and in part, that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
To Republicans, the announcement that insurance companies would be allowed to postpone the cancellation of outdated policies for one more year was another sign the White House is floundering on Obama’s signature law.
“Democrats are working to fix and improve the Affordable Care Act,” said Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, adding that Republicans again were “rooting for failure.”
“The fix proposed by President Obama today is an important step toward addressing a problem that has arisen, and if we need to do more, we will,” he said.
But Republican Sen. Dean Heller said allowing insurers to renew policies at this point will make the law more complex.
“Maybe they can make this work, but on the surface I don’t know how,” Heller said. He warned the change would allow Obama to “shift blame” to the states and insurance companies when customers’ renewed policies expire next year.
Heller also said he suspected it was no coincidence the fix will carry beyond the 2014 elections, after worried Senate Democrats up for re-election convened at the White House last week.
“I’ve said this thing is going to collapse under its own weight,” Heller said. “Maybe they’ve just expedited the process.”
Democratic Rep. Dina Titus said such talk was Republican “wishful thinking.”
But Titus expressed concern about the bumpy rollout; in particular, the failed enrollment website has magnified other problems because people can’t get online to see that they might replace canceled policies with better ones, she said.
If the Obamacare website is not fixed by the end of November as Obama has promised, “it will be a disaster,” Titus said. “If people can’t get on to buy insurance, the exchanges can’t work.”
The House was scheduled to vote today on a Republican bill that would allow insurers to renew policies for another year, essentially the same thing Obama said he would do administratively.
Nevada Republican Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei are co-sponsors and plan to vote for it. Titus planned to vote against it, saying it is more broad than what the president wants. Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford has not announced his vote.
Heck argued Thursday that Obama does not have the power to make the change in the law, although he did it when he gave businesses an extra year to comply with the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s another political move,” Heck said. “He responds to what’s popular. The fact is he does not have the constitutional authority to decide what he can and can’t do with the law.”
The change includes a requirement that insurers inform customers about coverage they will not receive through their renewed plans and how they can learn what would be available to them on the health care exchanges.
Horsford said in that way insurers will “no longer be able to hide the details” of their policies. In an interview this week, Horsford said a number of policies being canceled were “predatory.”
“They didn’t offer basic coverage for maternal care, substance abuse, mental health care,” he said. “They had very high deductibles for going to the hospital. It reminded me what our community in Nevada just went through with predatory mortgages and how that put people in near-bankruptcy and ruin.”
Amodei said in a statement that Obama is trying to “incompetently dominate” on health care when he and Congress should be collaborating.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.