Heitkamp among senators making election year bid to reform Obamacare


By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau

REFORMING OBAMACARE: Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota is proposing major changes to Obamacare along with a group of other Senators.

BISMARCK, N.D. — In a column for Politico Magazine, a group of U.S. senators, including North Dakota’s Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, are proposing major changes to the controversial Affordable Care Act ahead of what looks to be an election favorable to Republican critics of the law.

Among the changes mentioned are a raise in the threshold for the employer mandate from 50 to 100 employees and allowing state insurance officials to set rules for interstate policy sales.

The senators joining Heitkamp are Mary Landrieu, D-La.; Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; and Angus King, I-Maine.

“As each of us has said from the beginning, the ACA is not perfect,” the senators write in the column. “And as each of us has promised, we are taking important steps to make the law work even better for families and small businesses across the country.”

The reforms proposed are:

  • Adding a “copper plan” to the existing bronze, gold, silver and platinum levels of “metallic” insurance coverage options.
  • Subsidies for state-based health insurance cooperatives “now operating in 23 states.”
  • Allowing state insurance commissioners to propose models that would allow insurance plans to be sold across state lines.
  • Raise the bar for the employer mandate from 50 employees to 100 employees. The employer mandate was to have gone into effect last year with the individual mandate but was delayed by the Obama administration.
  • Expand health care tax credits from businesses with 25 employees or fewer to business with 50 employees or fewer.
  • Streamline administrative reporting for employees who are family members and on the same insurance plan by treating them as one employee.
  • Finally, the senators want to “seek to provide a permanent path — in addition to HealthCare.gov — for consumers to seamlessly enroll directly through insurers, while improving access for the agents and brokers whom many families and small businesses trust and rely upon for help with these decisions.”

These changes are offered up as a rebuttal to the Republican calls to “repeal and replace” the law.

“We are not going back to the days when a child with a pre-existing condition could be denied coverage,” the senators write. “When our mothers, sisters and daughters had to pay more for coverage simply for being a woman. When our seniors couldn’t afford the medicines they needed. And we are not going back to the days when Americans’ health and security could be jeopardized by an arbitrary denial of coverage.”

In January a group of Senate Republicans proposed the Patient CARE Act, which they are touting as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, a Democrat polling firm, warned Democrats to stay away from Obamacare.

“In terms of Obamacare, don’t defend it, say it was flawed from the beginning, and we’re going to fix it,” she said at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

In a recent analysis of the 2014 Senate races, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com concluded, “Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber.”

Contact Rob Port at rport@watchdog.org