WASHINGTON — Amid an outcry over canceled health care policies, the House approved a bill Friday that would allow insurance companies to continue selling coverage that doesn't meet Obamacare standards.
The measure got support from 39 Democrats and passed 261-157. Four Republicans, including Rep. Jim Bridenstine, of Tulsa, opposed the bill.
House approval came a day after President Barack Obama, at perhaps the most contrite moment of his presidency, proposed his own “fix” to enable him to keep his promise, at least for awhile, that people who like their health care plans could keep them.
But Republicans — as well as some Democrats — in both houses want a legislative solution, not an administrative fix.
The question is whether the Democratic Senate and Republican House could agree on a bill that the president would sign.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has not said whether he would allow a vote on legislation authored by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
The White House has threatened to veto the House bill, which gives insurance companies the latitude to offer existing and new customers policies that don't have the breadth of coverage required by Obamacare.
Obama's proposed fix, unlike the House bill, would only apply to policies offered to existing customers. The Senate Democrats' bill also would apply only to existing customers, but it would last beyond 2014, while the House bill and Obama's proposal are only for next year.
Obama met with insurance company executives Friday.
“We're going to be soliciting ideas from them,” Obama said. “There's going to be a collaborative process. We want to make sure that we get this done so that in the years to come every American is going to have the kind of affordable health care that they all deserve.”
The Obama administration set minimum standards for health care plans sold in the marketplaces, known as exchanges, and many people who purchase coverage individually, rather than through their employers, have plans that don't meet those standards.
Companies have been canceling plans that don't meet the standards, and it's not clear how much Obama and Congress can do now to stop that.
Bridenstine said insurance companies have already called the reversal unworkable.
“They have spent years preparing for Obamacare implementation and it can't be reversed on a dime,” he said. “In short, people are still going to lose their health insurance. As such, legislators should pass no law owning the president's promise that ‘if you like your health insurance you can keep it.'”
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who also opposed the bill, said it would create “an entire shadow market of substandard health insurance plans.”
He and other Democrats argued that it would strip away the core consumer protections at the heart of Obamacare.
The White House veto message said the bill would allow “insurers to continue to sell new plans that deploy practices such as not offering coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, charging women more than men and continuing yearly caps on the amount of care that enrollees receive.”
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, who supported the bill, said it would “give Americans relief from the president's flawed health care law by allowing health insurers to continue offering their old plans ... (It) would therefore ensure that Americans who are able to keep their health plan would not face onerous penalties under Obamacare's individual mandate.”