The second-ranking Democrat in the Senate said Tuesday he'd be "open to discussing changes" in President Obama's health care law and that "a couple more sentences" would have clarified Mr. Obama's promise to Americans that they could keep their insurance plans under the law.
"We need to be open to constructive changes to make this law work better, but there are those, frankly, who don't want it to work at all," Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. said on CNN. "If those on the other side are willing to sit down in a constructive fashion, move us toward our goal of making health insurance available to more and more Americans and reducing cost, that's a good, positive thing to do."
Addressing President Clinton's remarks earlier in the day that Mr. Obama should allow people to keep the plans they have, even if it means a change in the law, Mr. Durbin said: "If we can get a bipartisan group together, we can start to solve some of the problems we're facing."
Mr. Durbin said proposals floating around that would allow people to keep their insurance plans for a year deserve "a close look," as some are designed to derail the larger effort. He said new health benefits like banning denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions and lifetime limits on payouts for cancer victims should be part of insurance policies, and if they're taken away it could create chaos for the market.
"A couple more sentences added to it would have clarified it, and they should have been added," Mr. Durbin said of Mr. Obama's "if you like it, you can keep it" pledge. "The president has apologized; I think he said very clearly he was sorry if he misled people."
The bottom line, Mr. Durbin said, is that 1.8 million people in his home state and 40 million people across the country don't have health insurance.
"It should have been added that in this private insurance market, every two years two out of three policies are canceled [and] changed," he said. "This happens frequently in this niche of the market, this part of the market, and it should have been clarified from the start. ...I certainly wasn't in on that decision, but I will tell you that we have got to keep our eye on the goal."
"I said it because I believed it," he said. "Now I know that I should have added, 'For 98 percent of American people, that is exactly true, for the other two percent who are in the individual market, there's frequent changes in policies, people are used to increases in their premiums and changes in their policies — that is something that is a reality. It should have been clarified."
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