Half a dozen centrist Democrats are proposing a package of small changes to the Affordable Care Act, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning. Sounds like the biggest one would be the inclusion of a “copper” plan on the Obamacare marketplaces (plans are rated Gold, Silver, or Bronze based on how much coverage they offer). The copper plan would have lower premiums but higher allowable out-of-pocket costs — in other words, it would be a a plan designed to appeal to healthier people. Will this idea go anywhere in the Senate? Probably not, but in policy terms it’s better than some of the gimmicks this crew has offered up in the past. I’ll wait to see more details to comment further.
Politically, this seems to be an effort to appeal to the majority of Americans who say they don’t want to repeal Obamacare, but want to see Congress work to improve it. “Fixing” the law polls better than scrapping it or keeping it as is.
Six senators are making the proposal: Mark Warner of Virgina, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Sen. Angus King of Maine.
Landrieu and Begich are in tough re-election battles and under fire for their support of the ACA.
Hey, wait a second, do you see anyone missing from that list? I’ve got a line in to the Mark Pryor campaign. This sort of thing is his bread and butter, so I was a little surprised not to see his name already. Last time Landrieu and Manchin were trumpeting “fixes,” Pryor hopped aboard quickly.
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post argues that all of this is more about Obama than Obamacare:
[T]his is a reminder that, for both sides, the war over the health law in the 2014 elections is really a war over the president’s unpopularity.
The ads from the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity are obviously attacks on Obamacare. But their larger goal is to use all those victimization anecdotes to turn folks against government as an agent of positive economic change and channel unhappiness with the sluggish economy (which itself has dragged down Obama’s approval) into anger at government and votes to oust those Dems. The health law is a convenient symbol of the ways these Dems are willing enablers of an Obama Big Government agenda that’s only deepening people’s economic misery.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the response — proposing “fixes” to Obamacare — are also partly about achieving distance from its author and demonstrating a reasonable willingness to acknowledge the need for improvements where necessary. These embattled incumbent Dems maximize their chances of hanging on if they can stake out their independence from Obama. Landrieu will stand up for the Medicaid expansion but also cast herself as tough enough to defy the President to protect Louisiana’s interests. Begich is already up with an ad that’s emphasizing his Alaska roots and willingness to defy Washington Dems on energy. Today’s Obamacare “fixes” are of a piece with this.