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WASHINGTON — The top Democrat in the U.S. House said on Sunday that her party would not abandon President Obama’s landmark health-care reform law, despite unrelenting Republican opposition and emerging signs of market turmoil for consumers and health insurers.
Two days after 39 House Democrats joined Republicans on a bill aimed at undermining the law known as Obamacare, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi denied that Democrats have lost confidence in Mr. Obama’s ability to overcome a botched rollout of his signature domestic policy achievement.
“There’s a lot of whoop-de-do and ado about what’s happening,” Ms. Pelosi said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“It doesn’t mean: Oh, it’s a political issue, so we’re going to run away from it. No. It’s too valuable for the American people,” she said, claiming similar numbers of Democratic lawmakers have joined Republicans on votes that challenged Obamacare in the past.
“Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act,” Ms. Pelosi said.
Her comments come at a time of intensifying concern for Democrats, who face a tough midterm fight for control of Congress in 2014.
Democrats have been hit by a public backlash over millions of people who have had their policies canceled because the plans do not meet new consumer protections mandated by the law. The administration’s troubled enrollment Web site, HealthCare.gov, also is still not working properly, more than six weeks after its launch.
Friday’s Democratic support for a House Republican bill that would allow insurers to continue selling older policies could be a sign that the administration’s coalition in Congress could be fraying, according to analysts. Several Democrats have produced similar legislation.
Pressure from his Democratic Party prompted Mr. Obama to say last week that insurers could extend their policies for a year even if they don’t comply with the law.
But that decision stirred objections from insurers and some state insurance regulators about higher costs for consumers and potential solvency threats for insurance companies.
“What I really want to focus on is how do we address these reasonable problems. We have an interest in doing so, so ... the markets don’t blow up,” Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, said on Fox News Sunday.
She appeared with Ben Nelson, chief executive of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents state regulators. He said states are worried that insurers could get saddled with losses as a result of the so-called fix that extends noncompliant policies for a year.
“They want to make certain that this doesn’t shift the cost to the point that insurers face and risk insolvency,” he said.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that most Americans be enrolled in health coverage by March 31 or face a penalty. But the administration has made only partial progress fixing technical glitches that have made HealthCare.gov inaccessible to consumers in the 36 states it serves as it approaches a Dec. 15 enrollment deadline to receive coverage beginning Jan. 1.
Mr. Obama met with insurance executives on Friday at the White House for what was described as a “brainstorming” session about cancellation victims and the enrollment challenges. Both sides have since pledged to work together.
The outward image of cooperation has done little to hide concerns. Insurers and regulators worry that cheaper plans with fewer protections and less-robust coverage will entice younger and healthier consumers to buy them, leaving Obamacare’s online marketplaces with older, sicker beneficiaries who cost more to insure.
The administration is looking at ways to insulate insurers from losses, though there has been no decision about what to do.
“Under the rules of law of large numbers, which is what you get with actuarial science, the more people you have in the plan, generally the better the plan is. So excluding certain people from the plan creates certain issues,” Mr. Nelson said.