What the House vote on health care tells us 

Posted: 3:46 pm Friday, November 15th, 2013

By Jamie Dupree

As Republicans pushed through a bill that would enshrine the President’s ‘if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it’ pledge into law, both parties were furiously spinning the outcome, as a chunk of Democrats voted for the bill, even after a late “fix” offered on Thursday by President Obama.

What have we learned in recent days?

1. The Obama health law troubles still have political legs

The 39 Democrats who voted for the Republican bill were an interesting group that included some very liberal and conservative members. Seven of them hailed from California, the home state of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and included Rep. John Garamendi, a former California state Insurance Commissioner. Six Democratic votes were from Illinois; both Democrats in Iowa voted for the bill as did both in New Hampshire.

In other words, even with something on the table from the White House that would address those who have been hit by health insurance cancelations – and presumably give Democrats easy political cover – almost 20% of Democrats in the House voted for this GOP bill.

2. Some Republicans won’t vote for any fix

When the final tally was in, there were four Republicans who voted against the GOP plan from Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), as the GOP Four argued the only logical answer is to just get rid of the entire Obama health law.

“While this is a well-intentioned messaging bill, this law would place the President’s lie on the shoulders of Congress,” said Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

Bridenstine was joined by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), as they went along with 153 Democrats in voting against the bill.

3. Democrats had another tough week on health care

Despite a very public admission of troubles by President Obama, this was another rough week for Democrats in the Congress, as they faced increasing public pressure over the troubles on healthcare.gov and with the cancelation of insurance policies nationwide.

One thing some Democrats would like to see is an administration that takes names and makes some heads roll, all in a bid to show some accountability for the troubles at healthcare.gov.

As for the White House, they tried to focus on other issues, but again drove the news with the announcement of a one year “fix” by President Obama and the run-up to that decision. Will they move past this issue next week, or will the President hold another health care event?

4. The GOP push on health care isn’t over

As debate was underway on the House floor, Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee released emails obtained from inside the agency that was responsible for building the healthcare.gov website – they showed that red flags were being raised back in July about the possibility of major troubles with the website.

Despite those warnings, a top official, Henry Chao – who testified earlier this week before Congress – went before lamwakers in mid-July and promised that the website would be just fine when the website went live. He then shared his testimony via email with some of those who were worried that the site was in jeopardy.

“I wanted to share this with you so you can see and hear that both Marilyn (Tavenner) and I under oath stated we are going to make October 1st,” Chao wrote in his email.

More hearings are already set for next week.

5. Will lawmakers get signed up on the web?

For many Democrats in the Congress, there is just disbelief that the Obama Administration can’t get healthcare.gov working. This week officials said the website starts coughing and hacking when between 20,000 and 25,000 users are on the site simultaneously. That doesn’t seem like many when you consider that millions don’t have health insurance and might need to go through the federal web site.

Starting this week, lawmakers in Congress can now go get their own health insurance. One Democrat told me he and his wife had poked around on the site last night and that he was surprised by the high deductibles on their initial review. One Republican tried to sign up for an account on healthcare.gov during a hearing on Wednesday, but got stuck on the website. Look for reporters to start asking more questions of members about how they are doing with getting health insurance.  

If members of Congress can’t get through and sign up, that only drives home the troubles of the website – and the underlying Obama health law.

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