Democratic Unease Grows on Health Law

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Lawmakers Cite Website Woes in Call for Delay in Penalties for the Uninsured.

HEALTH Insurance Executives at the White House

The hard line Democrats have drawn against delaying a core element of the federal health law has begun to crack, as problems with the new federal insurance website prompted calls for President Barack Obama to delay penalties on people who don’t carry health coverage.

Democratic leaders in Congress and Mr. Obama have defended the minimum penalty of $95 in 2014 as crucial to inducing uninsured Americans to sign up for coverage, and the party held firm against Republican demands to delay or eliminate the coverage requirement that provoked this month’s partial government shutdown.

Late Wednesday, the Obama administration said it would establish what amounts to a six-week extension in the time people have to obtain insurance coverage before incurring a penalty, responding to what some have described as a lack of clarity in the law over the deadline.

Some Democrats say the flawed rollout of the law could mean bigger changes are needed. Sen. Mark Begich (D., Alaska), who is up for re-election in 2014, said Wednesday that individuals shouldn’t be penalized if technical issues with the website aren’t resolved.

The signs of growing Democratic unease came as the White House acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that the problems extend beyond sign-up logjams that kept thousands of people from being able to view insurance offerings online. Experts are working to “iron out the kinks” that have led insurers to receive flawed data, including duplicate enrollments and spouses reported as children, the White House said after a meeting among administration and insurance industry officials.

The debate over the botched launch will kick into higher gear Thursday at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. In their prepared testimony, contractors responsible for the federal insurance portal pointed fingers at each other and the administration.

At least two more congressional hearings are scheduled next week, including one where Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is expected to be grilled.

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