- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Senate Democrats’ promotion of Obamacare got personal Tuesday, as lawmakers called out Republican rivals by name and one senator said he would have died decades ago if he hadn’t held health insurance.

Sen. Angus King, Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, said a routine checkup exactly 40 years ago, in March 1974, helped him get a melanoma diagnosis early on.

“If you don’t catch it in time, you’re dead,” he said at a press conference in the Capitol.

Mr. King said it bothers him that other young adults will die from the affliction because they do not have insurance and will not go to the doctor.

As part of a series of promotional events, Mr. King and four Senate Democrats highlighted the Affordable Care Act’s benefits by focusing on people with pre-existing medical conditions, who can no longer be denied coverage under the law.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, wasn’t shy about calling out Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, who recently told a tea party crowd he would “repeal every single word of Obamacare.”

“It seems almost cruel,” Mr. Schumer said in comments bookended by tales of people who have cancer but are finding new coverage options. “Ted Cruz and the tea party haven’t learned their lesson.”

Republican lawmakers have battered Senate Democrats up for reelection this year over their support for the health care law. Specifically, they’ve focused on millions of Americans who lost barebones health plans last year that didn’t meet the law’s coverage requirements as of 2014.

President Obama backtracked and allowed insurers to renew those plans for one year, but Senate Democrats are looking at ways to let people keep those plans for longer.

Many of the Democrats pushing for solutions are up for reelection this year, although none of them were at Tuesday’s event.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are slated to vote this week on a bill that would effectively delay the law’s individual mandate for one year, meaning people who failed to acquire insurance — as the law requires — would not have to pay a penalty.

Mr. King said the individual mandate is necessary to make sure healthier people take responsibility for their health costs before they get sick and balance out costs when insurers take on people with preexisting conditions, a popular aspect of the law.

“I’m sorry, but you can’t cherry pick,” Mr. King said.

But the senator said people who must forfeit barebones plans within one year under Obamacare should be allowed to keep them for as long as they want.

He said there is a lot of churn in the individual market for catastrophic plans, anyway, and many people will find better options on the Obamacare marketplace, so the existence of barebones plans will not upset the law’s economics.

“I don’t think, actuarially, it’s that big a problem,” he said.

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