Washington Update

Democrats Split Over House Health Insurance Bill

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By a wide margin, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would give insurance companies one more year to sell policies that do not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The House bill, formally known as the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013, is not expected to be taken up by the Senate. President Obama has also promised to veto it, which means it has no chance of becoming law.

The November 15 vote was 261 to 157, and included the backing of 39 Democrats who broke ranks with their leadership. In the past month, millions of Americans have received notices that their insurance policies would be cancelled because they did not meet the minimum requirements set forth in the ACA, setting off a storm of criticism against the administration and President Obama, who had said repeatedly that Americans could keep their health insurance if they liked it.

The two-page House bill was an attempt to fix that problem. But insurance company executives and Democratic congressional leaders made clear that allowing two types of plans—those that meet the ACA requirements and those that don’t—would make it far more difficult for the new plans offered by the state health insurance exchanges to attract enough customers (especially young and healthy ones) to make the new plans viable.

Prior to the vote, Democratic leaders predicted that no more than 25 Democratic Representatives would defect. Many of the 39 Democratic votes came from members who will be in tough reelection fights next year. Nineteen of the Democratic votes came from members who had not yet been elected to the House when the ACA became law in 2010.

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