Udall proposal would let people keep current healthcare plans for two years

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee last year.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee last year.

DENVER — As Democrats on Capitol Hill are growing increasingly angry with the White House over problems with Obamacare — and increasingly uneasy about their individual fortunes heading into 2014 — Colorado Sen. Mark Udall Wednesday became the latest Democratic lawmaker to introduce legislation to change the beleaguered Affordable Care Act, FOX31 Denver is first to report.

With support building for a plan introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, that would allow people mislead by the president”s promise to keep their plans to actually do so indefinitely, Udall has come up with a scaled down version that would allow policyholders to keep their current plans, being cancelled under the new law, for two years.

“We’re protecting the stability of the insurance market in the exchange while allowing people to hold on to their current plans a little bit longer,” Joe Britton, Udall’s deputy chief of staff, told FOX31.

Like Landrieu, Udall faces reelection in 2014, although he’s not viewed as being nearly as vulnerable as she or Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, who also signed onto her bill.

“I have repeatedly said that the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, and it will need to be improved as it is implemented. This common-sense bill ensures the health reform law allows Coloradans to maintain insurance coverage,” Udall said.

“I share the concern that some health insurance companies are choosing to cancel thousands of Coloradans’ plans. That’s why my common-sense bill will allow Coloradans the option to keep their current coverage if they want or to purchase new plans through the Connect for Health Colorado marketplace that may better meet their health care needs.”

Senate Democrats are scheduled to visit the White House on Thursday, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

The White House appears to understand the political concerns of Democratic lawmakers facing reelection next year and has to be increasingly nervous about a proverbial dam breaking as many steadfast supporters of the law begin to abandon key provisions.

Supporters of the law believe that allowing all current health care plans to remain in place will destroy the new online marketplaces where providers are competing to sell their plans but also being held to new federal mandates that they cover more than their policies used to.

Udall’s office says his proposal is an effort to address the concerns without imperiling the entirety of the law itself.

“In addition to allowing consumers to keep their current benefits and cost-sharing, Sen. Udall’s bill preserves important market reforms designed to spread risk and stabilize the new health insurance exchange market,” said Mike Saccone, Udall’s spokesperson.

Four Republicans are vying to challenge Udall next year: state Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs; state Sen. Randy Baumgardne of Hot Sulphur Springs; Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck; and state Rep. Amy Stephens of Monument, who actually co-sponsored the legislation creating Colorado’s health insurance exchange despite her opposition to the federal law that called for it.

Stephens, who is leading the field when it comes to sending out the most anti-Obamacare press releases, brushed off Udall’s proposal as a transparent ploy to save his job.

“Sen. Udall’s legislation is nothing more than a phony political ploy that will only temporarily delay insurance cancellations instead of actually stopping them,” Stephens said in a statement.

“When Sen. Udall promised Coloradans they could keep their health insurance, he didn’t put a time stamp on it, but today, he offers a half measure that is simply insufficient and politically motivated. It’s clear that Mark Udall is more interested in putting off the disastrous consequences of Obamacare until after his re-election campaign instead of actually standing up for Colorado families, which requires repealing this law and replacing it.”

The Colorado Republican Party also blasted Udall’s proposal.

“In 2009, Sen. Udall voted against a Republican amendment that would have kept hard working Coloradans from  losing their healthcare plan,” said Colorado GOP spokesman Owen Loftus.

“He owes the 250,000 Coloradans who are losing their insurance an apology and an explanation for why he didn’t prevent this debacle from occurring when he first learned about it in 2009.”

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