Moderate Senate Democrats Propose Nine Obamacare Fixes


A group of moderate Senate Democrats, including several in tough reelection races this fall, proposed Thursday a package of “fixes” to the Affordable Care Act.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA), Mark Begich (AK), Mark Warner (VA), Joe Manchin (WV) and Angus King (I-ME) released the proposals in tandem, along with a co-written op-ed in Politico. Begich and Landrieu have particularly tough reelection bids, already taking a hammering from conservative groups for their support of Obamacare.

“As I have said from the beginning, the Affordable Care Act is not perfect,” Landrieu said in a statement. “No law is. That is why I am happy to join with several of my colleagues to put forth some ideas to make it work even better. I hope some, if not all of these, suggestions will gain support from Republicans and Democrats to become law.”

The proposal echoes one from Landrieu and others last fall that would have allowed people to keep their non-compliant health plans, introduced amid the uproar over canceled policies. The bill hasn’t moved in the Senate, and the White House administered a fix independently, but Landrieu has continued to tout the the bill and pushed the administration to make that fix permanent.

It’s still not clear whether the package of bills will actually receive a vote on the floor. “We’re working on leadership and the White House,” a Senate Democratic aide told TPM.

Democrats have positioned themselves to run on a platform of “keep, but fix” Obamacare in the fall midterms and Thursday’s bill package is the legislative manifestation of that strategy. Recent polling has also found that a majority of Americans support keeping the law in place, while making small changes.

Nine bills make up the “fix” package. Some of the highlights include:

  • Introducing a lower-cost health insurance plan, called a “copper” plan, which would cover 50 percent of medical costs. The cheapest plan currently available through Obamacare, called the “bronze” plan, covers 60 percent of costs.
  • Expanding the availability of small-business tax credits under the law to companies with fewer than 50 employees, rather than 25 employees.
  • Increasing the threshold for the employer mandate, requiring that only companies with 100 or more employees provide health coverage. The current threshold is more than 50.
  • Making permanent the option for people to enroll in Obamacare coverage directly through insurers and independent websites, in addition to the federal website

The senators touted the various groups — the National Retail Foundation, America’s Health Insurance Plans, etc. — that support the proposals. Industry insiders previously told TPM that the “copper” plan bill would likely be introduced if Republicans took control of the Senate next year.