Pryor backs bill to fulfill president's Obamacare pledge


WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said Thursday he is co-sponsoring a bill that would fulfill President Obama’s promise that Americans who like their health insurance plan could keep it under the Affordable Care Act.

The legislation is aimed at addressing a provision of the law, known as Obamacare, under which thousands of policyholders face being dropped on Jan. 1 from plans they purchased after the federal health care reform law went into effect in March 2010 because they do not comply with new standards of coverage. Plans purchased before the law went into effect are exempt.

Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced the “Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act” earlier this week. It would allow people who like the coverage they have to keep it, as Obama and supporters of the law promised in promoting it.

“I’ve urged the White House to fix this administratively, but until that happens, this is the most reasonable solution. As I’ve said many times through this process, I will always work to find responsible solutions to fix problems where they exist,” Pryor said in a statement Thursday.

The Obama administration has encouraged people whose insurance plans were not grandfathered in to shop for plans in the insurance marketplaces that began operating in every state on Oct. 1. Technical problems with the federal marketplace website have slowed enrollment, however.

Like Pryor, both Landrieu and Manchin, face strong re-election challenges in 2014.

Pryor’s likely Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, has made repeal of the Affordable Care Act a central theme of his campaign. Cotton campaign manager Justin Brasell said Thursday that Pryor needs to go beyond “symbolic gestures” to undo the harm caused by Obamacare.

“Senator Pryor must demand a Senate vote to guarantee that people who have insurance and want to keep it may do so free of the harmful mandates of Obamacare,” Brasell said in a statement.

Landrieu said she proposed the bill because when the Affordable Care Act was approved in 2010 the intention was that “if you liked your health plan, you could keep it.”

“For many consumers, plans in the marketplaces may offer superior coverage at a good value that saves them money. But people should be able to keep their plans if they want to,” Landrieu said in a statement.

The Arkansas Insurance Department has allowed insurance companies to modify non-grandfathered plans so they can remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2014, giving Arkansas consumers an extra year to find a different plan, if necessary.