WASHINGTON – In August, Rep. Cory Gardner was one of the first losers of the Affordable Care Act, as he received a notice from his insurer that his family’s policy would be cancelled. The Yuma Republican went public with his plight. After many more Americans said they too had lost their plans, on Friday Gardner was one of the political winners of the battle over Obamacare, as the House approved a bill to allow those who would have lost their plans to get them back for another year.
“We’ve been accused of rolling back the law. This bill does that. It rolls back broken promises,” Gardner said on the House floor, waving a copy of the Aug. 19 cancellation notice from Rocky Mountain Health Plans in his right hand. “It does go back to a time when Americans were promised if you like your health-care plan you can keep it.”
Gardner referred to President Obama’s frequent promises that Americans who receive health insurance would be able to keep them under the 2010 law. According to the Associated Press, at least 3.5 million Americans on the non-employer individual marketplace have been told their policies will end at the end of this year, and the cancellation notices have created a political furor in Washington.
The House bill would allow existing and new customers to buy individual insurance plans offered before Jan. 1, 2013 and keep them through 2014.
The vote was 261 to 157. All four Republicans in the Colorado delegation joined 218 of their colleagues and 39 Democrats in support of the bill. All three of Colorado’s House Democrats joined 184 of their colleagues and four Republicans in opposition to it.
House Democratic leaders opposed the legislation that Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) sponsored. On the House floor, several argued that Upton’s bill would allow insurance companies to continue to offer policies that do not include mental health benefits and deny coverage to the sick and pregnant women.
“It’s lousy,” Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) said in an interview. Perlmutter has argued that insurers’ ability to deny coverage to the sick is a violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
Earlier Friday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) argued that health-insurance prices would rise under the Affordable Care Act partly because the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants are barred from receiving insurance. “American citizens are essentially being forced to pay for health-care costs of people who are here illegally every day, until we pass comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.
President Obama’s announcement that those whose policies will be cancelled can receive them for another year undercut Democratic support for Upton’s bill. As late as Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters twice he was undecided on Upton’s bill, although he said he was “not inclined” to support the measure later in the press conference.
House Democrats held a caucus Thursday afternoon in the Capitol, and the meeting helped stem Democratic defections. During the debate, Upton said as many as 300 members would have cast “aye” votes for the bill if Obama had not made the announcement of his administrative fix Thursday.
Obama has said he would veto Upton’s bill, although the measure’s fate is uncertain in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Yet the political winds have shifted in the direction of Republicans. A House Democrat who opposed the 2010 law said he has no political regrets about his vote.