(Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing)
Breaking the unity of President Obama's party, 39 House Democrats defected on Friday and voted for a Republican bill that would give health insurers the option of extending plans through 2014 irrespective of their compliance with standards set by Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The GOP measure, Keep Your Health Plan Act introduced by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, passed the House by a vote of 261-157 on Friday. The vote came the day after Obama assured of administrative steps to address grievances related to his signature healthcare law.
Among the bill's supporters were nearly one-fifth of the Democratic Party's caucus who would like to allow insurance companies to renew and sell inexpensive, limited-coverage policies that have been canceled due to their inability to meet Obamacare standards.
"I am frustrated and angered by the continuing problems with the healthcare website and I know Southern Arizonans are frustrated and angry, too," Reuters quoted Democrat Rep. Ron Barber from Arizona as saying. "Today I voted to give people the option to keep their current plan until these and other issues are resolved. That's only fair."
Democrat Rep. Nick Rahall from West Virginia said in a statement: "It is incredibly frustrating that individuals are losing policies that they want, even in the face of that congressional intent and understanding. That's a big problem, and why I have voted to allow existing health insurance plans to continue into next year. I intend to keep pressing to see that the flaws in the program are fixed."
About three-fourths of the Democrats who voted for the bill are facing re-election.
The healthcare law took effect on Oct. 1, and Obama's approval ratings are going down since the faulty launch of healthcare.gov. The president had promised that anyone who wanted to keep their existing health plan under the law could do so.
Obama "personally promised that if people liked their current health care plan, they could keep it 'no matter what.' But cancellation notices are now arriving in millions of mailboxes across the country," Upton was quoted as saying. "It's cancellation today, sticker shock tomorrow."
The GOP bill, however, is not expected to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. Obama has also indicated he will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.
After the House vote on Friday, Obama held a meeting with health insurance chief executives at the White House.
"I want to welcome the executives who are here from a lot of the insurance companies that are participating in the marketplace," the president said in a statement. "We all share a similar value, which is we want to make sure that Americans have good, solid coverage that gives them the security they need for themselves and their family members if and when they get sick."
Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee has identified congressional Democrats who also earlier said that people would be able to keep their plans, according to Politico.
The website of Rep. Rick Nolan from Minnesota says, "If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. And in fact, you'll get a host of other built-in new consumer protections." Rep. Tim Bishop from New York once wrote in a message to his constituents: "A central feature of reform will be preserving the freedom to choose what works best for you and your family – if you like your doctor, keep your doctor. If you like your current plan, keep your current plan."