Earlier this month, North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan stood firm with her Democratic Party colleagues against efforts by Senate Republicans to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Now, with the government shutdown over and mounting challenges present with the rollout of the massive expansion of government’s healthcare footprint, Hagan has now somewhat changed her tune on whether or not the program’s “individual mandate” provision should be enforced and delayed.
On Thursday, Senator Hagan asked the Obama Administration to extend the initial enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act by two months. She also asked the Administration to hold off on enforcing fines scheduled for those who chose not to enroll in a health exchange or purchase qualifying health insurance by other means.
“Everyone should be committed to making this work and making health care more affordable, and if that requires fixes, then we need to make those commonsense changes,” Senator Hagan said. “An extension would provide time to assess the extent of the problems and determine whether additional delays in the individual mandate are necessary. But frankly, the Administration had plenty of time to get these websites user-ready, and I would like to keep the pressure on to get these problems fixed sooner rather than later so that North Carolina families can get online and shop for the plan that suits them best.”
On September 27th, Senator Hagan voted for a Senate-led plan that authorized a Continuing Resolution without delaying Affordable Care Act implementation, including enforcement of the individual mandate.
“North Carolinians didn’t elect me to shut down the government, harm our state’s families, and jeopardize our economic recovery,” Senator Hagan said then of her position. “I reject the political games being played in Congress, and I urge the House to pass the Senate’s plan that keeps the government running at currently reduced spending levels and prevents a damaging government shutdown.”
President Obama already announced this week that the deadline for enrollment without penalty will be extended to March 31, 2014. The extension resulted from problems associated with the launch of the Federal Healthcare Exchanges earlier this month, specifically the inability of the healthcare.gov website and other online services to work properly or handle incoming workload.
Not everyone is convinced the proposed extensions will really protect citizens from fines, especially in light of reports that hundreds of thousands of people across the country are having to reconsider health insurance options after learning that their existing, personally-owned insurance coverage has to be cancelled because it does not meet new Federal requirements.
Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state. Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.
Second District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R) proposed legislation this week in the House to provide further protections from the proposed fines.
“Since the launch of the Obamacare exchanges on October 1st, Healthcare.gov has been plagued with delays, errors and fundamental flaws in website design,” said Congresswoman Ellmers. “But despite these major malfunctions and structural defects, the administration still has penalties in place for individuals who can’t obtain coverage.”
Senator Hagan will be up for reelection next year.