WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans from Tennessee reacted skeptically Thursday to President Barack Obama's offer of an administrative fix for Americans wanting to keep their health insurance another year instead of shopping for new plans under the Affordable Care Act.
House Republicans from the state said they were instead supporting a legislative fix offered by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They rejected arguments of some Democrats that the Upton bill would allow the industry to continue offering policies that don't cover pre-existing conditions or meet other goals of the 2010 health care reform law.
Obama went on national television to say he is asking state insurance commissions and insurance companies to let customers keep existing plans for another year. It was a reaction to a rollout of the Affordable Care Act marked by website failures and millions of Americans receiving cancellation notices regarding current policies.
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said the matter was too important to depend on the president's proposed administrative fix.
"The 5 million Americans – including 82,000 Tennesseans – losing their health care plans know that, after too many broken promises from this administration, the details matter. The president should send his proposal to Congress to consider and give Americans the certainty of law over rhetoric," he said in a statement.
Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, said people have lost all trust in the president on the issue.
"President Obama has zero credibility when it comes to protecting Americans' existing health care plans," she said.
"Even though the White House knew back in 2010 that Obamacare would result in millions of Americans having their insurance policies canceled, the president spent years falsely promising the American people that this would not be the case. Sadly, the president's sudden change of heart appears to be the result of sagging poll numbers and shifting political winds."
But Black said she could support Upton's proposal for a legislative fix, which may receive a House vote Friday.
"The American people should be able to choose the policies they want and deserve better than to be serially misled by the President," she said.
Similarly, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, said of the Upton bill: "This isn't a partisan political issue; it is about making sure my constituents can keep their health coverage that satisfies their needs."
As far Obama's proposal, he said: "I do not have much faith in anything the president has to say after he deliberately misled the American people regarding his law. Further, I believe that President Obama's actions are being driven by a desire to deflect blame rather than actually making sure hardworking Americans can keep their plans."
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, said he too supported the Upton bill and that it was wrong to say it would allow substandard plans to continue.
"To call these plans flawed or substandard is a smack in the face to every American family that has spent time researching their options and picking a health care plan that meets their needs," Roe said.
Rep. John Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, added: "The President's announcement today shows just how unprepared they were, and shows that the law should be repealed. The healthcare.gov website has already cost taxpayers $600 million and no one knows how much more it will take to fix it. It really is just a political move by the president because he has been embarrassed by what has happened so far and the polling numbers of Democratic candidates have dropped drastically all over the country."