Somerset’s own Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers has voiced opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care revamp every step of the way.
This past week, Rogers found something he liked about it — Obama’s backtracking.
After Obama told the American people that he was “sorry” about the millions of cancellation notices on current health insurance policies, Congress went to work on additional legislation to correct the political misstep. On Friday, the Republican-controlled House voted by a bipartisan majority — 261 to 157 — to permit the sale of individual health coverage that falls short of requirements in the law.
Obama had previously told the public that if they liked their health care plans, they could keep them even after the government’s insurance purchasing site went online last month. When that turned out to prove false for many Americans, it created a political trap for Democrats looking ahead to future elections, and gave Republicans the opportunity to put a dent in “Obamacare” that they had been trying for, particularly in recent months.
As a member of the U.S. House, Rogers was one of the Congressman to vote Friday, and applauded the passage of the "Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013," also known as H.R. 3350. Rogers co-sponsored the bill to allow providers to continue to offer health insurance plans that individuals and families currently have through 2014.
In Rogers’ home state, nearly 300,000 Kentuckians alone have received notice of cancellation from their insurance providers.
"Today, thousands of Kentucky mailboxes are filled with insurance cancellation notices,” said Rogers. “It's time to relieve Americans from being forced to find new health care coverage options as a result of multiple broken promises from the Obama Administration.
“Even after admitting you can't keep your health care plan as promised, the President has threatened to veto this bill to fix it,” he added. “Nonetheless, this bipartisan effort speaks loudly for people across the country who want to keep the coverage they have trusted year after year. I strongly urge the Senate and the President to listen to the outcry from Americans and move quickly to pass this legislation."
Rogers pointed out that Section 1251 of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act (ACA) states that “nothing in this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) shall be construed to require that an individual terminate coverage under a group health plan or health insurance in which such individual was enrolled on the date of enactment of this Act.”
Only 26,794 people signed up in health plans through the federal site the first month of open enrollment, 993,635 applied for coverage and were waiting to finalize decisions. For many it took hours of persistence, dealing with frozen screens and error messages. When states running their own sites are included, a total of 1.5 million individuals have applied.
Skittishness among the ACA’s supporters was evident in the 39 House Democrats who Friday bolted their party to vote for Republican legislation on cancellations, ignoring Obama's veto threat.
Obama maneuvered this past week to extricate Democrats from the cancellations fallout. The president offered a one-year extension to more than 4.2 million people whose current individual policies are being canceled by insurers to make way for more comprehensive coverage under the law.
This move by the White House was intended to smooth a disruption for which his administration completely failed to plan. But it also invited unintended consequences, showing how easily the law's complicated framework can start to come loose.
State insurance commissioners warned that the president's solution would undermine a central goal of the law, the creation of one big insurance pool in each state for people who don't have access to coverage on their jobs. Fracturing that market could lead to higher future premiums for people buying coverage through the law's new insurance exchanges, which offer government-subsidized private insurance.
The legislation now moves to the Democrat-controlled Senate for consideration.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.