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Franken: Focus needs to be on fixing health-care exchange website

WASHINGTON — After Thursday’s filibuster fireworks, the Senate adjourned for an extended Thanksgiving recess — senators won’t return to D.C. until Dec. 9.

That means they’ll be back in their states for perhaps one of the Affordable Care Act’s most important deadlines: The Obama administration’s Dec. 1 target for rolling out a repaired

After we’d exhausted our filibuster-related inquires for Sen. Al Franken on Thursday, another reporter and I threw out a couple of health-care questions. Here’s a summary:

Extending enrollment period

Franken has said for a while he’d be open to extending the insurance enrollment period if the exchange problems aren’t fixed. He said the progress made on ahead of the Dec. 1 deadline will probably dictate whether he joins to the call to do just that, and whether the penalty for individuals without insurance should be delayed as well.

If the website isn’t fixed by the end of the month, “I think then we have to consider extending the deadline for the mandate, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” he said.

Six Democrats have sponsored a bill to extend the enrollment period by two months, and even longer if the website isn’t operational in a few weeks. Franken said he’s heard the site is getting better, but there’s still some concern it won’t be fully operational by Obama’s deadline. The White House says the goal is to have the website functional for up to 80 percent of people looking for health insurance when December rolls around.

Reviewing cancellation proposal

Franken said last week he would review President Obama’s proposal to undo the insurance cancellation notices some individuals have received because their plans don’t meet new ACA requirements. Obama’s plan won’t take hold in Minnesota — Gov. Mark Dayton announced this week insurance providers won’t need to re-institute the substandard plans they’ve already cancelled — but Franken said at this point it’s a matter of making the exchanges more accessible than trying to pursue other potential fixes.

“My focus is on those people who had their policies dropped and making sure that they can find the absolute best policy,” he said. “I’ve been talking to some of the CEOs of the insurance companies to make sure that the insurance companies who did drop some of the old policies do everything they can in reaching out to those people, let them know what their alternatives are, not just necessarily in a policy that they have, but let them know they can go to MNsure, and let them know that there are tax subsidies there for them, or there may be.”

The GOP-controlled House passed a bill last week to extend the now-cancelled insurance plans for one year, and a group of Senate Democrats, many of whom are up for re-election in 2014, have introduced a similar plan.

Devin Henry can be reached at

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 11/22/2013 - 06:50 pm.

    You just gotta love the GOP working their way to the bottom

    The GOP worked tirelessly for over 4 years to repeal ACA (40+ times) because they were ticked off that it passed. Now they are ticked because the website doesn’t work. They are trying to have their cake and eat it too. Many are relishing the problems the website is having, but then again when questioned over and over what alternative they are proposing, they offer no answers. In the GOP world it is sink or swim, everybody is on their own, I’ve got mine now you get yours attitude. The GOP continues to work their way to the bottom. I must say they excel at downward movement.

  2. Submitted by Mike Downing on 11/23/2013 - 07:37 am.


    Obamacare will be a major issue in the 2014 election cycle. Frankin’s role in being the deciding vote will be tested in next year’s election.

    “If you like your plan you can keep it, period”.
    “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor, period”.
    “The average family will save $2500 per year”.
    “It’ll cost $800 billion”.

    All the above are not true.

    85% of Americans liked their health care coverage before Obamacare.

    Instead, we are seeing:
    1) Bureaucrats telling us our plans were substandard…
    2) Huge increases in premiums for 20 & 30 year olds.
    3) Huge increases for families in rural Minnesota.
    4) Spouses and retirees losing their coverage.
    5) More people losing their insurance after Obamacare than didn’t have coverage before Obamacare.
    6) The list can go on…
    7) But most importantly, we were lied to by Obama, Pelosi, Reid & Frankin.

    • Submitted by Mike Lafky on 11/23/2013 - 10:26 am.

      “85% of Americans liked their health care coverage before Obamacare.”

      Care to source that statement? Or define ‘huge?’

    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 11/25/2013 - 12:41 pm.


      Actually, of all ‘of age’ Americans currently covered, the number is probably closer to 50% if that. It’s true that the Insurance companies had their own agenda in going along with this. It’s also true that there were no lies told, but rather misunderstandings. The rollout of ACA was done, not by the government but by private contracted entities. When private companies bring in contract workers, they don’t know who they are getting in terms of abilities. If at any time the project is put on hold, the private companies lay off their current contract workers then when starting up again there’s no guarantee they’ll get the same contract employees back. Odds are they won’t because they’ll have been contracted out to some other private company. I think it’s basically a failure of the private sector companies hired to create a workable site. Where to look for the reasons for that one should look at the Executives in charge.

  3. Submitted by Michael S. Smith on 11/23/2013 - 10:06 am.


    We should extend the deadline to July 1 reduce the minumum requirements to what they are in Medicare at least and some other changes

  4. Submitted by Michael S. Smith on 11/23/2013 - 10:13 am.


    We should;
    1: Extend Dealine to July 1, 2014
    2: Decrease requirements to what they are at least under Medicare
    3: Increase the Number of Hrs a employee has to work from 30 to 37,5
    4: Make all Doctors have to take all Insurance plans and all insurance
    Companies alow customers to go to any doctor they want even if out
    of Network
    5: Give employers a tax refund, Credit or rebate of $1.25 or evey$1.00 they
    spend on Health crare for thier employees

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 11/24/2013 - 10:54 pm.

      No No No!

      It’s tough to tell where to start on your disastrous proposals. But I’m up for it! Let me give it a try.

      Why not decrease the number of hours to zero? Employers are just going to game the system anyway, so let’s take that item out of the mix entirely and build universal health care plan.

      Making all doctors accept all plans is a non-starter. It’s simply too expensive. There are already 2.5 admins per doctor as it is and that would just make the ratio explode. It would be far better to go with a single payer plan so the doctors just have one insurance company to deal with.

      Your point #5 sounds like a HUGE suck on government finances. Did you even run the numbers on it to see how much it would cost? Plus it doesn’t address the large number of people who don’t have any health insurance because their jobs don’t offer it. Not to mention the people who are too young, too old, or simply don’t have a job.

      Please go back and rethink your strategy.

  5. Submitted by John Edwards on 11/23/2013 - 10:42 am.

    Mr. Downing’s comment is right on target

    As Mr. Downing points out, the issue in the next election will not be whether the ACA is good or bad. Rather, it will be about the deceitful way it was presented. We now know that the ACA simply redistributes the cost of care to the young, healthy and wealthy. But that was not the way President Obama or Sen. Franken presented it. Instead they promised that 30 million uninsured would be insured and essentially everything else would remain the same. The liberal mainstream media and a majority of voters bought this questionable proposition despite the many of us who shouted that it was a falsehood.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 11/23/2013 - 07:45 pm.

      Oh the memory of the right wing republicans

      Weapons of mass destruction – kill how many for the lies. BTW we pay billions for ER visits of the poor, especially in republican and southern hate states. Any change is better Edwards

  6. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 11/26/2013 - 07:18 am.

    “…eceitful way it was presented”

    Translation: you HOPE the elections will be about your perception of how ACA was presented. What’s far more likely to happen is Republicans will campaign on the promise that they’ll repeal Obamacare (for the 57th time) and people will decide they like their healthcare instead. 47.2% of people will still vote Republican, 48.6% will vote the Democrat ticket, and we’ll carry on as-is.

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