By a vote of 261 to 157, the House of Representatives passed the “Keep Your Health Plan” bill sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) on Friday. The bill, which would exempt every current insurance policy from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, was vocally opposed by the White House. Still, 39 Democrats voted for it.
Upton’s proposal differed greatly from the adminstrative fix announced by President Obama on Thursday. Obama’s change only allows insurance companies to continue offering plans to existing customers who don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s requirements through 2014. It also mandates that insurance companies inform consumers about issues with these policies and tell them about more comprehensive plans. By contrast, Upton’s bill would allow insurance companies to offer these plans prohibited by Obamacare to new customers as well, not just those whose policies have been canceled.
Upton’s bill is virtually certain not to become law. However, the vote Friday served as an important measuring stick of the political anxiety many Democrats feel about the ongoing fiasco with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Of the 39 Democrats who voted for the bill, two, Bruce Braley of Iowa and Gary Peters of Michigan, are expected to be the party’s nominees for U.S. Senate in 2014. The rest included a laundry list of vulnerable Democrats in 2014, ranging from conservative Blue Dogs such as Jim Matheson of Utah and unrepentent liberals such as Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire. They were all fearful of being tarred with negative ads tying them to Obama’s broken promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”
The one silver lining for Democrats is that defections were lower than expected. Before Obama’s awkward press conference Thursday, rumors circulated that up to 100 Democrats might jump ship. Even afterward, at least one senior Republican aide predicted that 40 to 50 Democrats would support the Upton bill.