The House of Representatives on Friday passed the "Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013" in a vote 261 to 157, with 39 Democrats breaking with their party to vote in favor of the legislation.
"‘If you like your plan, you can keep it.’ For the last three years the president repeated this promise in selling his signature law and he did so with the knowledge that it would not be met … and now thousands are losing their health insurance," said Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.), the author of the legislation.
"The president … should heed his own advice and work with us, the Congress, as the founders intended, not around the legislative process," Upton said.
The majority of lawmakers have expressed concern or displeasure at the cancelation of at least 3.5 million individual health plans, but there is not consensus amongst lawmakers as to the route to fix it.
President Barack Obama announced his plan to deal with the problem Thursday, noting that the principle of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) grandfather clause would now be extended "both to people whose plans have changed since the law took effect and to people who bought plans since the law took effect."
"Keep Your Health Plan Act" is legislation, which means it needs congressional approval to be implemented. However, the president’s proposal does not.
Additionally, the proposals themselves are different. In addition to reinstating cancelled plans, the House legislation provides an option for individuals who did not have those plans to now purchase them.
The text states, "a health insurance issuer that has in effect health insurance coverage in the individual market as of January 1, 2013, may continue after such date to offer such coverage for sale during 2014 in such market outside of an Exchange established under section 1311 or 1321 of such Act."
Democrats, such as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.), pointed to this as the reason for their opposition, arguing that it would "drive up premiums and allow just the type of discrimination that Obamacare absolutely ends."
Republican lawmakers maintained it would ensure the president’s promise is kept.
They repeatedly expressed concern over the procedure in which the president intends to make these changes, while Democrats criticized House leadership for allowing Upton’s legislation to come to the floor without being marked up in committee.
"How many hearings did the Republicans hold on this? Zero. How many expert witnesses did they call? Zip. How many mark ups did they have in the committee? Nada. This bill gets one hour [of debate], and it’s closed," Rep. Jim Mcgovern (D., Mass.) said during opening remarks.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.) expressed a similar sentiment.
"The bill before us now not only fails to solve the problems before us, it makes things worse, by fundamentally undermining the Affordable Care Act," Maloney said.
"You would be changing the rules in the middle of a game and virtually guaranteeing that premiums would eventually skyrocket for people who did the right thing, went to the exchanges and got a plan. And this would price the program out of existence."
"Talk about changing the rules in the middle of the game," Rep. Michael Burgess (R., Texas) rebutted, "what in the world was the presidential conference 24 hours ago all about? It was all about changing the rules by executive fiat."
It would likely be the case that Health and Human Services, the agency that implements the majority of the ACA, would ultimately make the changes outlined by Obama. Consequently they would constitute an administrative law, a legal alternative to some legislative actions.
"You want to talk about something that was done without any hearings?… Without any transparency?" Burgess rhetorically asked before listing various areas, including the extension of the enrollment period and self-reporting income verification, where the president had changed the health care legislation without consent of Congress.
Following the president’s press conference, state insurance commissioners, including the National Association of Insurance Commissioners criticized his proposal, noting it was "unclear how, as a practical matter, the changes proposed today by the president can be put into effect."
According to health policy experts, any proposal that reverses the cancelations would likely result in increased premiums.
The White House has said it will veto "Keep Your Health Plan Act" should it reach the president’s desk.