WASHINGTON — Looking toward their own re-election prospects rather than standing by their party or president, 39 Democrats in the House of Representatives broke ranks Friday to support a Republican bill that would modify President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
By a vote of 261-122, the Republican-led House approved a bill that would allow insurance companies to sell new customers individual health policies in 2014 that don’t meet the minimum coverage requirements set by the health care law.
The vote came a day after the president, under heavy pressure from his allies on Capitol Hill, softened a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. He said policyholders whose plans were canceled in anticipation of the new law going into effect could keep them for another year.
Obama already apologized to people who got cancellation letters for promising them they could keep their policies if they preferred, rather than sign up for coverage through the online insurance marketplace.
The differences between the House-passed bill, offered by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and what Obama announced is that the president’s plan would apply only to people with existing policies and would require insurers to tell them what parts of their plans were substandard compared with the Affordable Care Act.
The Republican bill contains neither restriction.
Problems have plagued the Affordable Care Act since the debut of its insurance marketplaces last month, largely the result of a glitch-laden website that’s prevented many people from navigating the system. Enrollment numbers after the first month didn’t meet administration estimates.