WASHINGTON — Defying a veto threat from President Barack Obama, the House today approved legislation that would allow health insurance companies to renew individual insurance policies and sell similar policies to new customers next year even if the coverage does not provide all the benefits and consumer protections required by the new health care law.
The vote was 261-157, with 39 Democrats bucking their party leadership to vote in favor of the bill.
The legislation would go further than the fix announced Thursday by Obama, who said he would temporarily waive some requirements of the law and allow insurers to renew “current policies for current enrollees.”
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the chief sponsor of the House bill, said his legislation would fulfill a promise that Obama had made to the American people and then broken.
“In the last three years,” Upton said, “the president personally promised that, if people liked their current health care plan, they could keep it ‘no matter what.’ But cancellation notices are now arriving in millions of mailboxes across the country. It’s cancellation today, sticker shock tomorrow.”
Upton, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, belittled Obama’s proposal, saying that it had been offered at the last minute, “as the administration’s allies in Congress panicked.”
Senior Democrats criticized the Upton legislation as a ploy that could unravel the entire health care law.
“Don’t pretend you care about the American people’s health care here,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. “You just want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Democrats are not going to let you do that.”
The outlook for the legislation is unclear in the Senate, where Democrats running for re-election in 2014 are looking for a way to help consumers facing the loss of insurance policies that do not meet requirements of the 2010 law.
With the House debating the measure, Obama and his top aides were to meet with insurance company executives at the White House in an effort to quell concerns about the implications of the president’s plan.
The insurance industry had reacted with alarm to Obama’s announcement Thursday, saying that the decision to change the rules about who could keep insurance plans had the potential to undermine the Affordable Care Act and raise premiums.
The White House said Obama would veto the House bill if it got to him. The bill, the administration said, would reverse progress made in extending coverage to the uninsured.