The House of Representatives passed GOP legislation Friday to let insurers sell existing plans to anyone through 2014, a response to the uproar over cancellations due to Obamacare.
The final vote was 261-157 on the legislation offered by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). Thirty-nine Democrats broke with their leaders and voted with all but four Republicans. The bill is expected to die in the Senate, and in any case, the White House has threatened to veto it.
Republicans took turns bashing President Barack Obama for his broken promise that people who liked their insurance plans could keep them.
“Never has there been a federal mandate who has just swept so many people aside and said, you must buy this product,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). “Some of you have asked why we’re doing this. Let me tell you why. We’re doing it for my constituents like Caroline and Lucie and Cindy and Wilma.”
Republicans voted down a Democratic substitute bill, which leadership put forth in an attempt to minimize defections. Democrats termed it “Landrieu-Lite,” after a bill introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), although it closely mirrored components of the administrative “fix” enacted by Obama on Thursday.
Unlike the Democrats’ proposal, which only lets existing policyholders keep their plans for an extra year, the Republican bill allows insurers to sell current plans to new customers even if those plans fall short of Obamacare’s minimum coverage standards. Democrats slammed it as the latest GOP attempt to repeal Obamacare.
“The free enterprise system is lions and they’re eating antelopes,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA). “I urge a no vote on this [Upton bill] because you’re going to create endless confusion in this country in the insurance market.”
Insurers voiced similar concerns about the Obama and Upton fixes, warning that both could lead to a sicker, older pool in the market exchanges (by letting healthier, younger people to hold on to their substandard policies) and therefore compel insurers to raise premiums.
The GOP bill was called the “Keep Your Health Plan Act.”