Lawmakers offer legislative fixes to the Affordable Care Act

The U.S. House easily passed legislation Friday that would allow companies to continue selling insurance policies that don’t meet the standards set under the Affordable Care Act.

But the bill probably won’t become law.

The bill, called “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” would allow millions of people nationwide to keep their existing policies. Insurers were canceling coverage because the bare-bones plans lacked adequate coverage or had deductibles that were too high or otherwise didn’t meet the new federal standards.

On the heels of President Barack Obama announcing Thursday the administration would work to let insurance companies continue offering such plans to existing customers for a year, the U.S. House passed the measure by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., on a vote of 261 for and 157 against.

Upton’s bill also would allow insurers to sell their minimal plans to new customers and would allow the companies to continue peddling policies that don’t cover specific health care problems.

If an insurance company chose not to keep offering its old plans, it could go ahead and cancel the policies.

Only 39 Democrats supported Upton’s bill and the Democratic-led Senate is not expected to consider the legislation without changing it. The White House has said the president would veto the bill because the legislation would negate the point of having minimum standards.

Senate Democrats are looking a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that is called “Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise.” Her bill would require insurers to keep offering plans being canceled to policyholders.

Landrieu said Thursday that the Upton proposal would “gut” the Affordable Care Act rather than “fix” it. She said she supports working to improve the health care law, but not to undermine it.

Republicans argue that Landrieu’s measure is too restrictive and less voluntary.

In Louisiana, about 93,000 policyholders are having their insurance plans discontinued for not meeting coverage requirements. Republicans have assailed Obama for failing to keep his promise that people could get the insurance plans they liked.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said many people are being forced to buy more expensive insurance coverage they do not want or face fines.

“This is not power to the family or the patient,” Cassidy said Friday. “This is Washington saying, ‘Thou shall spend thy money in the way we direct you to spend it.’ ”

Cassidy, who wants a full repeal of “Obamacare,” questioned the effectiveness of the Upton plan on Thursday, but he said it is the best option on the table.

Cassidy and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, were original cosponsors of Upton’s bill.

“Some Washington politician shouldn’t be able to say, ‘I don’t think it’s good enough, so I’m going to take it from you, even though it’s right for your family,’ ” Scalise said Friday.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, was the only member of the Louisiana delegation to vote against the House bill.

Richmond said in an email response that the Upton bill would lead to increased insurance premiums and weaken insurance exchange pools.

“The president’s fix in offering a one-year extension has the potential to be a promising plan with the cooperation of insurance companies,” Richmond stated. “However, the issue of insurance companies selectively dropping who they want is an ongoing battle that will more than likely continue to persist.

The fact still remains, the Affordable Care Act was established to make health care accessible for all and the Upton bill undermines that.”