The House of Representatives passed the “Keep Your Health Plan Act” introduced by House Republican Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) on Friday afternoon by a 261 to 157 margin. Thirty-nine Democrats crossed party lines to vote in favor of the bill.
Upton’s simple two page proposed bill, HR. 3350, states that “notwithstanding any provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act . . . 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.”
Significantly, Upton’s bill only allows insurers to offer the same plans currently in effect for one more year, 2014. As it is silent beyond December 31, 2014, insurers would not be allowed to offer customers their existing plans into 2015 and beyond without additional authorizing legislation.
Tea Party favorite Thomas Massie (R-KY) was one of four Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted against the bill. Jim Bridentstine (R-OK), Paul Broun (R-GA), a medical doctor, and Ralph Hall (R-TX) also voted against it.
Upton is the man who championed the 2007 legislation that banned incandescent light bulbs. His new idea to “fix” a problem created by Obamacare is not much brighter than his ill advised ban on the reliable, inexpensive, and highly effective incandescent light bulb, according to conservative talk radio host and constitutional scholar Mark Levin.
On Wednesday night, Mark Levin derided Upton’s bill on his nationally syndicated radio show, saying that it was put together by a “feckless bunch of knuckleheads on Capitol Hill.” These politicians of both parties, Levin said, “are now trying to figure out not how to improve the situation for the nation, for you, but how to cover their asses.”
Levin singled Upton out for criticism. “Some jerk congressman who tried to, who succeeded in banning incandescent light bulbs now has another idea. . . He wants to vote in the House [on the Keep Your Health Plan Act] . . . but the problem is millions of peoples already lost [their plans].”
Levin criticized the leadership in both political parties. “We have a ruling class in Washington D.C. that is insane…they’re banning products, they’re imposing services… this is called tyranny,” he stated.
The practical impact of Upton’s bill on the availability of 2014 health insurance policies to those who currently hold those policies in 2013 but have been notified they will be cancelled in 2014 seems limited at best. Almost all health insurers determined their 2014 health insurance policy premiums and offerings many months ago as part of their regular business planning processes. Indeed, the millions of policies that were cancelled were the result of these insurers complying with the requirements of The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare.)
The Upton bill contrasts with the “fix” proposed by President Obama, who unilaterally, and without legislative authorization, decreed on Thursday that he would now allow insurers to extend plans that they had been forced to cancel due to their non-compliance with the new plan standards established in the Obamacare legislation and subsequent regulations.
Ken Klukowski wrote in an article at Breitbart that the hurried “fix” to Obamacare announced by President Obama is unconstitutional. Conservatives and Republicans alike agree that Obama’s proposed “fix” is both impractical and likely illegal.
Not all critics of Obamacare, however, have the same view of the Upton bill. George Will opined recently that if Upton’s bill passes, it will effectively end Obamacare. Certainly, the president’s veto promise and Minority Leader Pelosi’s opposition to the bill suggests that many prominent Democrats oppose it.
However, Erick Erickson wrote at RedState on Friday morning before the House passed the bill that “most everyone pushing the Upton legislation points out that is really has no teeth. It is a paper tiger. Even the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board concedes this. But the Upton legislation gives the appearance of doing something.”
Erickson added “So this Republican measure gets passed by the House, passed by the Senate, signed by the President, heralded by the media as a bipartisan success, and . . .rates continue going up. The insurance companies that play along do so by letting people keep their existing plans at a much higher monthly premium. The public anger about Obamacare grows.”
Erickson argued that a consequence of turning the Upton bill into law is that the Republican Party would now own Obamcare too. “[I]f Upton does pass,” he wrote, Republicans would now be “co-owners of the rate shock Americans are suffering.”
National health insurance organizations have already warned that the “fix” proposed by President Obama on Thursday would, if implemented, create chaos in insurance markets. According to Karen Ignagni, President of America’s Health Insurance Plans, “[c]hanging the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers.”
That same warning from the marketplace applies to the “fix” proposed in Upton’s Keep Your Health Plan Act. It is unlikely most insurers would try to recreate the millions of 2014 policies that have already been cancelled at the last minute under 2013 prices of the Keep Your Health Plan Act were enacted into law.