No let-up in US political battle over health care

(AP)—President Barack Obama’s sharp course change on a key regulation in his health care overhaul did little to appease Republicans, who will weigh in Friday on a measure to reverse millions of insurance cancelations, the latest setback to the troubled program.

As millions of Americans were receiving cancellation notices on insurance policies deemed substandard by the new law, Obama went before reporters and the public Thursday to take the blame for the bungle roll-out of the Affordable Care Act that is meant to be his legacy domestic policy achievement.

Obama said he was ready to leave the cancelled policies in effect through 2014, trying to make good on his oft-voiced promise that Americans would be allowed to keep their current coverage if they were happy with it. No new customers, however, would be allowed buy coverage deemed substandard.

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives is voting on its own measure to address the problem. That House proposal would would leave in place the so-called substandard coverage through 2014 for both current policy holders and any new customers. There would be a congressional review at the end of next year.

But House Speaker John Boehner voiced the larger Republican position on Thursday, saying it was time to scrap the law “once and for all.”

He said, “You can’t fix this government-run health care plan called Obamacare. It’s just not fixable.”

Insurance companies, likewise, are warning the reinstatement of cancelled policies might be impossible by the Jan. 1 deadline and that the disruption of the marketplace could mean higher prices.

The insurance coverage in question is that bought in the private market place by about 5 percent of insured Americans; the vast majority has health insurance through the workplace.

Obama ordered the change after coming under growing pressure from fellow congressional Democrats who face re-election next year and are finding their bedrock support for the new law, also known as Obamacare, was placing a considerable drag on their chances for holding their seats in both the House and Senate.

The health care overhaul was signed into law in 2010 shortly after Obama completed his first full year in office. At that time, Democrats were in control of both the House and the Senate. But Republicans regained the majority in the House later that year in mid-term elections. Since then, virtually all of Obama’s legislative proposals have been blocked in the lower chamber and the Republicans’ all-out political war on the has escalated as a central theme.

Obama, who tells of watching his now-deceased mother battle with her insurance company as she was treated for ovarian cancer, came to office determined to fix the American health care system.

His new law is aimed at making health insurance affordable and available to the tens of millions of uninsured Americans. The plan also was designed to prevent insurance companies from cancelling coverage to policy-holders who became seriously ill and from denying coverage to those with existing health problems.

The overhaul was to be financed by forcing all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine. The conception held that the new law would force younger, healthier Americans into the insurance pool to offset higher costs insurers would incur in payouts for older and sicker Americans brought into the system.

Republicans saw that as excessive intrusion into the private lives of citizens. The ideological battle began and shows no sign of ending in the foreseeable future.

By changing course Thursday, the president shifted responsibility for cancellations from the administration to state regulators and the industry itself.

While passage of the Republican plan was expected in the House, a combination of the president’s announcement and an as-yet-undisclosed Democratic alternative measure seemed likely to make the vote a clearly partisan one. The White House said late Thursday the president would veto the Republican legislation.

Obama’s approval ratings in polls have fallen to record lows, and he readily conceded that after recent events the public can legitimately “expect me to have to win back some credibility on this law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general.”

Explore further: Obama apologizes to Americans losing coverage

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