With the help of a few dozen Democrats, Republicans in the House on Friday passed the "Keep Your Health Plan Act," a bill aimed at addressing the fact that millions of Americans are being dropped from insurance plans that no longer meet Obamacare standards.
The bill passed 261 to 157, with 39 Democrats -- nearly one fifth of the Democratic caucus -- voting for it and four Republicans voting against it. This is the largest number of Democrats who have ever voted with republicans on an Obamacare bill.
The legislation would allow insurers to keep selling plans that existed on the individual market as of Jan. 1, 2013 through next year. The policy change isn't far off from the administrative fix that President Obama announced on Thursday. The difference between the two, however, is enough to provoke a veto threat against the House bill from the White House.
Mr. Obama's administrative fix will let insurers renew existing policies for another year -- and let them reach out to those whose plans have been cancelled in the lead up to the opening of the new Obamacare marketplaces. The House bill would accomplish the same thing, but it would also let insurers sell those existing plans to new customers.
"Whatever its intentions, the bill would by allowing insurers to sell substandard policies... to new customers -- an unlimited number of new customers -- would undermine the central premise of the Affordable Care Act," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday. That central premise is that there should be minimum health coverage standards for everyone.
In fact, those in the insurance industry and some state insurance commissioners are already complaining that Mr. Obama's policy change will undermine the new Obamacare marketplace, since only the sickest patients will need insurance from the new marketplace. That change in the market could presumably lead to higher premiums. A few state insurance commissioners have said they won't allow the policy change to go into effect in their states.
Given that it's not mandatory for insurance commissioners to adopt the policy change, or for insurers to go along with it, some Senate Democrats have suggestedthey may pursue more legislative options. A handful of Senate Democrats earlier in the week were backing a bill that would make it mandatory for insurers to extend policies for another year.
Carney said Friday that Mr. Obama "did yesterday what he can do administratively to address this problem," and that he "will work with Congress so that Congress will do what it can do legislatively... What he won't do is support policies that are essentially designed to undermine the Affordable Care Act."