WASHINGTON Nov 17 The top Democrat in the U.S.
House of Representatives said on Sunday that her party would not
abandon President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare reform law,
despite unrelenting Republican opposition and emerging signs of
market turmoil for consumers and health insurers.
Two days after 39 House Democrats joined Republicans on a
bill aimed at undermining the law known as Obamacare, House
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi denied that Democrats have lost
confidence in Obama's ability to overcome a botched rollout of
his signature domestic policy achievement.
"There's a lot of whoop-de-do and ado about what's
happening," Pelosi told NBC's "Meet the Press" program.
"It doesn't mean: Oh, it's a political issue, so we're going
to run away from it. No. It's too valuable for the American
people," she said, claiming similar numbers of Democratic
lawmakers have joined Republicans on votes that challenged
Obamacare in the past.
"Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care
Act," Pelosi said.
Her comments come at a time of intensifying concern for
Democrats, who face a tough midterm election fight or control of
Congress in 2014.
Democrats have been hit by a public backlash over millions
of people who have had their policies canceled because the plans
do not meet new consumer protections mandated by the law. The
administration's troubled enrollment Website, HealthCare.gov,
also is still not working properly, more than six weeks after
Friday's Democratic support for a House Republican bill that
would allow insurers to continue selling older policies could be
a sign that the administration's coalition in Congress could be
fraying, according to analysts. Several Democrats have already
produced similar legislation.
Pressure from his Democratic Party prompted Obama to say
last week that insurers could extend their existing policies for
a year even if they don't complying with the law.
But that decision stirred objections from insurers and some
state insurance regulators about higher costs for consumers and
potential solvency threats for insurance companies.
"What I really want to focus on is how do we address these
reasonable problems. We have an interest in doing so, so ... the
markets don't blow up," Karen Ignagni, president and chief
executive of America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade
group, told the "Fox News Sunday" program.
She appeared with Ben Nelson, chief executive of the
National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which
represents state regulators. He said states are worried that
insurers could get saddled with unexpected losses as a result of
the so-called Obamacare fix that extends non-compliant policies
for a year.
"They want to make certain that this doesn't shift the cost
to the point that insurers face and risk insolvency," he said.
MANDATE ON AMERICANS
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that
most Americans be enrolled in health coverage by March 31 or
face a penalty. But the administration has made only partial
progress fixing technical glitches that have made HealthCare.gov
inaccessible to consumers in the 36 states it serves as it
approaches a key Dec. 15 enrollment deadline to receive coverage
beginning Jan. 1.
Pelosi acknowledged that HealthCare.gov will work well for
only 80 percent of visitors by Nov. 30, when officials have
promised to have it operating smoothly for the vast majority of
them. That could leave 1-in-5 potential enrollees mired in
glitches during a brief two-week window before Dec. 15.
"That's just by the end of this month. It's not acceptable
ongoing," she said.
Obama met with insurance executives on Friday at the White
House for what was described as a "brainstorming" session about
cancellation victims and the enrollment challenges. Both sides
have since pledged to work together.
The outward image of cooperation has done little to hide
concerns. Insurers and regulators worry that cheaper plans with
fewer protections and less-robust coverage will entice younger
and healthier consumers to buy them, leaving Obamacare's new
online marketplaces with older, sicker beneficiaries who cost
more to insure.
The administration is looking at ways to insulate insurers
from losses, though there has been no decision about what to do.
"Under the rules of law of large numbers, which is what you
get with actuarial science, the more people you have in the
plan, generally the better the plan is. So excluding certain
people from the plan creates certain issues," Nelson said.
Many U.S. states are hesitant to embrace Obama's fix.
California, Colorado, Florida, South Carolina and Ohio said they
would act on it. Washington, Vermont and Rhode Island said they
would not. Seventeen other state insurance departments queried
by Reuters said they did not have enough information and were
still trying to decide how to proceed.