The problems with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act have damaged President Obama substantially over the past month, leading 39 House Democrats to side with Republicans on Friday in voting to allow health insurers to continue selling plans canceled under the ACA through 2014.
Coming to bat to defend Obama and his crumbling personal approval ratings on Sunday was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a prominent advocate of the president's signature domestic legislation. She told Meet The Press' David Gregory that despite the outrage among those Americans who have already been told by their insurers that their policies are being cancelled, she insisted that there's nothing that needs to be fixed about the law.
After Gregory showed a clip in 2010 where Pelosi echoed the president's now infamous refrain that people would be able to keep their same insurance policy after the ACA went into effect, the MTP anchor asked, "Are you accountable for saying something that turned out not to be correct?"
"But it's not that it's not correct," she replied. "It's that if you want to keep it, it's important for the insurance company to say to people, 'This is what your plan does. It doesn't prevent you from being discriminated against on the basis of preexisting conditions.'"
Pelosi added that with all of the media speculation that the unsuccessful beginning to the ACA has damaged President Obama and Democrats significantly, it was time to step back and see the bigger picture.
What I love about health care professionals is that they're calm, and we must remain calm when we talk about the health of our country. The Affordable Care Act, as I call it, as I always called it, is right up there with Social Security, Medicare: Affordable care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege.
The rollout of the website, that's terrible. But the fact is that will be fixed. And that is the instrument of enrollment, as you know. What the Republicans did on Friday is not a fix. And if I just may, the law does not demand that all of these cancellations go out. The law says if you had your plan of the law, you can keep it, and that's what the president said. So there's a distinction between those who had it before, and what this law does is say other people can be enrolled in these bad initiatives, which the rules—
But Pelosi started to lose Gregory (and the viewers) at that point.
Over on CNN's State of the Union, House Assistant Democratic Leader Representative James Clyburn said Sunday that those 39 House Democrats who voted for Upton's bill were "insulating themselves against sound bites," when they run for re-election next year. Whatever the case, the Democrats are not united, despite Pelosi's claim that they all "stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act."
Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are seizing the rocky start to maintain their belief that the law needs to be thrown out and the process restarted.
On Meet The Press, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte called the rollout a "mess" and said Pelosi and company couldn't spin it otherwise.
I'll tell you what I'm hearing from my constituents. They're writing me about cancellation notices of plans they wanted to keep, rising premiums so their deductibles, some of them, are doubling. They're paying much more for health care. People losing hours because of the definition of the work week as 30 hours. And then less choice. I mean, in New Hampshire, there's only one insurer on the exchange; ten of our 26 hospitals are excluded.
So this really is a mess. And so she can try to spin it, but I think it's time— you know, the president said that he fumbled the rollout. It's time for a timeout, which I've been calling for, so that we can go back to the drawing board and really talk about bipartisan solutions for health reform in the country.
When asked what plan she and her GOP colleagues have to provide coverage for uninsured Americans, Ayotte threw out some generalities:
Well, I would say let's get to the table on a bipartisan basis and let's make sure that we have a plan that has more choice, not less. Let's have one where we're driving down costs and increasing competition. Have the insurance companies compete in a way that they aren't right now.
Let's get together and figure out what are the best models from the state law on the high-risk pools to address pre-existing conditions. There are many ideas I think that we could do that won't harm people who have policies now that they would like to keep. And I think that's the problem that we're seeing, is a law that harms so many people who right now were trying to do the right thing and have health insurance, and now they're receiving these cancellation notices and higher premiums. And it seems to me that we should work together to address this health care reform instead of the way this was done on party lines.
Feeling the heat as more reports surface of millions of Americans losing their current healthcare policies (after he promised in 2010 that would not be the case), the president announced a plan on Thursday to undue those cancellations, which prompted a backlash from state insurance commissioners who have to deal directly with those consumers.
Obama met with insurance executives on Friday, and Karen Ignagni, head of America's Health Insurance Plans, told Fox News Sundays' Chris Wallace that her members would work "very, very hard to try to support their customers, to provide them options, at the same time making sure that the new market will be affordable and that's the key point."
Ignagni went on to say that her group has a "policy disagreement" with the Obama administration, but it won't deter them from working with the White House to get as many people as possible covered, and covered "affordably."