A group of six senators, five Democrats and one independent, proposed a set of fixes to President Barack Obama's troubled healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare." The move could be part of an effort to distance themselves from the unpopular new law ahead of what will likely prove to be a difficult election for Democrats.
The group has three proposals: 1) Provide an additional low-cost option on the healthcare exchanges. In addition to the current platinum, gold, silver and bronze plans, this "copper plan" would cover only the basics and have a high deductible. 2) Allow insurance companies to sell insurance across state lines. (This is a common feature of Republican alternatives to the ACA.) 3) Provide employers with more flexibility on the ACA's reporting requirements.
The senators are Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Warner (Va.).
"Before, during and after the debate over health care reform, I consistently said that The Affordable Care Act was not perfect, and that Congress would have to revisit the ACA to correct problems for consumers and employers as this new, improved system was implemented," Warner said in a statement.
Landrieu said that some of her constituents tell her they are "extremely happy" with the ACA while others tell her they have "a few recommendations about how this law can work better."
"As I have said from the beginning, the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. No law is. That is why I am happy to join with several of my colleagues to put forth some ideas to make it work even better," she said.
Republican strategists have made clear that the ACA's failures will be the focus of their election strategy. Of the six, three of the senators are up for re-election this year: Begich, Landrieu and Warner. All three of them voted for the ACA.
Republican efforts to gain control of the U.S. Senate have mostly focused on defeating four incumbent senators. Begich and Landrieu are two of those four. (The other two are Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mark Pryor in Arkansas.) Warner currently has a comfortable 15 percentage point lead in the polls over Ed Gillespie, who is the favorite to win the Republican primary.