Could Obama’s Health Law Vow Mean 2014 Pain For Democrats?

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from NPR,

Obama at Faneiul Hall, Boston

Assuming’s technical problems are largely fixed by November’s end, as Obama administration officials have reassured, Democrats will still face an even headier challenge: They must square with reality President Obama’s oft-made promise that the new health care law would allow people to keep existing insurance plans they like.

It turns out.

Yes, most people who get their health insurance through large employers aren’t likely to see major changes.

But for the millions who buy their health insurance through the individual market, changes prompted by the Affordable Care Act are definitely happening. Among them: people finding insurance cancellation letters in their mailboxes.

Although the law includes a provision for some existing policies to continue even if they don’t meet Obamacare’s minimum coverage standards, some insurance companies are dropping such policies rather than claim their “grandfathered” exception. And people who held (and perhaps liked) those minimalist policies and what they cost now must find insurance elsewhere.

In a Boston speech Wednesday partly aimed at rebutting charges that he misled Americans through blanket statements about individuals maintaining coverage they liked, Obama suggested he always played it straight. Any misunderstanding must’ve come from elsewhere:

Now if you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law and you really liked that plan, you were able to keep it. That’s what I said when I was running for office.

“That was part of the promise we made.

“But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is, you’ve got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage because that too was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.”

That’s obviously the spin the administration landed on; Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius delivered a similar message during her House Energy and Commerce Committee testimony Wednesday.

Those charges play into the Republican narrative that Obamacare is bad law with terrible consequences for Americans. And Obama’s explanation only fueled more Republican criticisms. Attack ads have already started, and conceivably could continue from now until Election Day 2014 if Democrats can’t figure out a way to neutralize the problem.

For congressional Democrats already made nervous by the severe technical problems experienced by the federal health exchange website on its launch, the focus on insurance policy cancellations only adds to anxieties as they head into a difficult midterm election year.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., a red-state Democrat who occupies a Senate seat Republicans view as a potential pickup, she planned to introduce a bill to allow people to retain insurance they like.

That is exactly the right move for congressional Democrats, said , a Democratic political consultant at Purple Strategies.

Of course, Republicans might be loath to fix the law, since their stated goal has been to repeal or defund it and they want to keep its flaws alive as an issue.

“They won’t do anything with it,” predicted McMahon of the GOP-controlled House. “But it makes their hypocrisy much clearer to everyone.”

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