WASHINGTON — Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan, Minnesota’s three rural House Democrats, voted for a Republican plan to stop the insurance plan cancellations stemming from the Affordable Care Act. The action came a day after President Obama proposed an administrative fix to that same issue.
Peterson, who voted against the law in 2010 and often sides with Republicans on health-care issues, had said earlier this week that he’d back the bill, which allows insurance companies to continue, for one year, to sell low-frills insurance plans that don’t meet the standards established by the ACA.
But Nolan, an 8th District liberal, and Walz have long supported the bulk of the law. Both said this week they were open to supporting even Republican legislation to undo the mass insurance-cancellation notices many consumers have received, including about 140,000 in Minnesota. Thirty-nine Democrats voted for the bill in total.
In a statement after the vote, Walz said he has always anticipated that “there will need to be fixes to the law along the way,” and that this was one of them.
“While many folks may find higher-quality, better-value coverage on the marketplace, if you’re insured currently and you like your plan, you should be able to keep it,” he said.
Obama threatened to veto the bill on Thursday night after he introduced his fix to the plan cancellation issue, essentially allowing insurance companies to keep offering their low-frills plan for another year, but barring the companies from selling them. Regulators are still trying to figure out what that change will mean for Minnesotans.
Many lawmakers, especially in the Senate, have credited Obama’s plan with easing Democratic angst over the health care cancellations, though others, like Nolan, had said they’d consider a legislative solution on top of what Obama proposed.
“If the president and many members of the Congress made that promise, then I think we have an obligation to honor that promise and to do a legislative fix if that’s what it takes,” Nolan said Thursday. “I have never seen anything of major consequence roll out that didn’t require some fixes once you started to see some of the consequences and implications.”
The Affordable Care Act rollout has turned into a bit of a political problem for Democrats, who have seen their post-government-shutdown polling surge evaporate as health insurance problems mounted. Obama has seen record-low approval ratings, and the law itself, which has never been popular, remains underwater with voters.
That has resonated in Congress as well. A group of Democratic senators up for re-election next year introduced a bill to undo the health care cancellations, though they hinted Thursday they’d hold off on pushing it until Obama’s plan kicks in.
Of the three Minnesota Democrats who voted for the Republican plan, Peterson represents a Republican-leaning district, and Obama won Walz’s district by just 5,000 votes last year (Most potentially vulnerable Democrats nationwide voted for the bill).
But most Democrats stood by the law, and some even questioned Obama’s fix. Rep. Keith Ellison told The Hill on Thursday that the move “undermines the program,” and Obama should have “just put his body and soul” into fixing the glichty healthcare.gov website instead.
Minnesota Republicans back the bill
Only four Republicans opposed the bill Friday; all three Minnesotans voted for it.
In the floor debate leading up to the vote, many Republicans made a point to highlight problems their constituents have had under the Affordable Care Act. On Thursday, Rep. Erik Paulsen discussed a constituent who needed to buy a plan costing him $5,400 more a year. Rep. John Kline talked about a Burnsville man who had his plan canceled and needed to buy one 20 percent more expensive.
“The American people are discovering the president failed to keep his word, leaving them with only political gimmicks and a broken website,” he said. “The president may have apologized, but the country deserves a president who not only admits when he is wrong, but does what is necessary to make it right.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry