By Deborah Barfield Berry
Sen. Mary Landrieu vowed Thursday to continue pushing her bill to let some people keep health insurance policies canceled under the Affordable Care Act, despite President Barack Obama's announcement that his administration will allow a similar change.
"The president's guidance is a great step forward," the Louisiana Democrat told reporters. "We're going to be working across the aisle, not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, not to defund the Affordable Care Act, not to undermine the Affordable Care Act, not to gut the Affordable Care Act, but to fix it.''
Landrieu, who is up for re-election next year, has pushed for changes in the 2010 federal health care law, including her bill that would reinstate policies canceled because they did not meet the law's minimum requirements.
Obama had repeatedly promised that nobody would be forced to give up their health insurance if they liked their current policies. But many with individual policies - who are not covered by employer-provided insurance or other group plans - have received notices they will be canceled effective next year.
Obama apologized earlier this month for making the promise and told his staff to come up with an administrative fix. On Thursday, he announced that insurance companies could continue to offer those individual policies for 2014.
Without the change, more than 92,000 Louisiana residents stood to lose their coverage, according to state insurance officials. It's unclear how many will be protected by Obama's change.
Despite Obama's effort to undo some of those cancellations, Landrieu said legislation was probably needed "to make it stick."
"However, do not underestimate the power of an administrative directive," Landrieu said. "Don't underestimate the willingness of insurance commissioners around the country - Republicans and Democrats - to make this right for people."
Unlike Obama's plan, which isn't mandatory for insurance companies, Landrieu's bill would require companies to reinstate coverage for policy holders who want to retain their insurance as long as they pay their bills. It also doesn't have a time limit, while the president's plan extends coverage for a year.
Republicans, including Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is running for the Senate against Landrieu, question whether Obama can make the changes without legislation.
Landrieu's legislation has picked up at least six Democratic supporters.
Senate Democratic leaders, however, have said they won't allow a vote on measures aimed at changing the law.
The Republican-controlled House was expected to vote Friday on a bill proposed by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to allow new customers to buy insurance that doesn't meet the minimum requirements of the new health law, and extend coverage through next year.
Cassidy and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-1st District, are cosponsors of Upton's bill.
"I don't know if the Upton bill can recreate that individual market," said Cassidy, R-6th District. "But it's the only one that has a chance.''
Cassidy called Landrieu's measure a "political charade."
Landrieu said Upton's bill and other Republican legislation "doesn't go to fix the Affordable Care Act, it goes to gut it.''
Scalise, head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, criticized Obama's plan and called for a repeal of the law. Republicans have tried more than 40 times to repeal or modify the law.
"This hollow press conference was like a person who burned down your house, later showing up with an empty bucket and talking about how inadequate your house was before the fire,'' Scalise said.
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-3rd District, called Obama's administrative directive "a political fix, not a permanent solution.''
"This terribly conceived law is a failure," he said.