- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2014

The House on Thursday took one last big swipe at Obamacare before of the midterm elections, as two dozen Democrats teamed up with Republicans to pass a bill that lets insurers continue to offer employer health plans that do not meet the law’s standards.

Republicans said the bill was a chance for Democrats to keep President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it,” by letting companies continue to offer insurance that doesn’t meet Obamacare’s stricter requirements.

The bill passed 247-167, but will die in the Democrat-controlled Senate — and it faced an eventual Obama veto anyway.

But Republicans wanted to give voters one last look at the political lines being drawn around Mr. Obama’s health law.

Thursday’s bill garnered support from 25 Democrats — a significant break with Mr. Obama, but less than the 39 who voted for a bill last year that would have let people on the individual market keep their noncompliant plans.

Rep. Gary Peters, who is chasing an open Senate seat in Michigan against Republican Terri Lynn Land, was among those who voted in favor of both bills.

Among other fall contenders, Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat squaring off with Republican Joni Ernst in Iowa’s Senate race, voted “no” on Thursday, even though he voted for the Keep Your Health Plan Act in November.

Under political duress, the White House last year allowed Americans in the individual market to renew bare-bones plans through 2016, after millions of people received cancellation notices saying their plans were not up to grade under the Affordable Care Act.

The wave of cancellations remains a political weapon of choice for Republicans who want to tie their Democratic rivals to Mr. Obama’s agenda.

Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado, frequently reminds voters that his own family lost its health care plan because of Obamacare.

Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican vying for a Senate seat, said he introduced the bill because employers and their workers are getting “hammered” by rising health care costs as they re-up their plans in the Obamacare age.

“They just want a life jacket thrown to them,” he said outside the chamber.

Democrats, meanwhile, point to their fix-it efforts. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who is trying to stave off Mr. Cassidy, released an ad titled “Keeping the Promise” to highlight her efforts to let Americans keep existing plans.

Explaining his bill, Mr. Cassidy said firms and their workers are under siege from a string of bad news related to Obamacare.

“You talk to folks right now getting their renewals, their [premiums are] going up 50 to 100 percent,” he said. “They’re just amazed at how much their costs are increasing.”

He also pointed to a Federal Reserve of New York survey that said 20 percent of employers planned to trim their workforce and increase their ranks of part-time employees to stay under caps in the “employer mandate,” which requires larger companies to provide health insurance or pay fines.

The liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, though, released a study Thursday that says health care law is not forcing people to work part time.

The percentage of employed persons who involuntarily are working part time went down from the first six months of 2013 to the same period in 2014, from 5.55 percent to 5.07 percent, while the number of people choosing to work part time increased, according to the study.

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