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Congress pushes 'keep your plan' bills

After public uproar over Americans losing their health insurance, both Republicans and Democrats have stepped up their efforts to reform the legislation.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (R) and Rep. Fred Upton R-MI) walk through Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 9, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (R) and Rep. Fred Upton R-MI) walk through Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 9, 2013 in Washington, DC.

After public uproar at the Obama administration for its failure to warn Americans that their plans could be cancelled, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have stepped up their efforts to reform the legislation with “keep your plan” bills.

In the Senate, six Democratic Senators, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), have signed on to Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s bill, which would allow people to keep their current health insurance plans.

Last Thursday, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) also introduced in the House a similar bill, which would allow plans currently available on the individual market to continue next year, giving people time to enroll without penalty. 

His bill has been cosponsored by more than 130 members, including three Democrats – John Barrow of Georgia, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, and Patrick Murphy of Florida – who both represent conservative districts and face a tough re-election in 2014.

“I think government needs to keep their promises,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy on Thursday’s The Daily Rundown. “We knew this Obamacare would not work and now [Democrats] are jumping on the bandwagon when they see it coming to fruition that they want change as well.”

McCarthy, who hasn’t signed up for health insurance under the new law yet, added that this reform is likely only the beginning of a series of healthcare fix-its.

“It’s more than just a broken website,” the California Rep. said. “The next big wave is going to be the cost and the high deductibles.”

Legislators’ hostility towards Obama’s healthcare plan has grown since Wednesday when a report revealed only 106,000 people successfully signed up for health insurance, a number far fewer than the Obama administration’s projected half million. One quarter of those enrolled through the federal marketplace, while the majority enrolled through the state-run exchanges.

“I see there’s revolt inside the Democratic Party over the frustration and credibility of what’s going on,” McCarthy said. “How long will it take for the president to realize this will not work?”

President Obama, who plans to meet with Senate Democrats on Friday to discuss their bill, acknowledged that the numbers were lower than expected, but that he’s working diligently to resolve the issues.

“Is that as high a number that we’d like? Absolutely not,” said President Obama during a press conference Thursday. “But there’s no question that there’s real demand for quality, affordable health insurance.”

President Obama called for insurance companies to renew plans for one year for those who already have policies in the individual market. But companies would have to notify the holder of alternative coverage options and what holders would be losing if they choose to keep a substandard plan. 

“We’re going to keep on chipping away on this until the job is done,” the president said.

Despite the announcement, the House is expected to continue voting on their “keep your plan” bill tomorrow, attempting to show that Washington is trying to overcome its gridlock.

“The challenge in Washington is the ability to work together,” said McCarthy. “We have 140 bills that have passed the house that are sitting in the Senate that Reid won’t even bring up. This is a real challenge in a process that is not working.”