LITTLE ROCK — U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said Friday he does not believe he deserves a share of the blame for public misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act, a charge leveled against him by his likely Republican challenger in 2014, U.S Rep. Tom Cotton.
President Obama on Thursday told NBC News he was sorry about some people believing, based on his statements, that they could keep their insurance when in fact they cannot. On Jan. 1, some plans bought in the individual market after the act was signed into law will not be in compliance with the law’s new requirements. Plans bought before the act became law are grandfathered in.
The Arkansas Insurance Department has allowed insurers to keep people on non-grandfathered plans until Dec. 31, 2014, giving consumers here extra time to find another plan.
President Obama “overstated his case” in saying that people who liked their insurance could keep it, Pryor, D-Ark., told reporters Friday after leading a panel discussion on business opportunities for veterans at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He said he was glad to see Obama apologize.
“I think that’s the right thing to do because he’s been out there over and over saying things that turn out not to be true,” Pryor said. “I don’t know if he ever deliberately misled anyone, but I’m glad to see what he said yesterday.”
Cotton, R-Dardanelle, who is challenging Pryor’s bid for a third Senate term, has said Pryor shares in the blame for misleading the public. This week his campaign said in a statement that Pryor “repeated the same false claim made by President Obama that anyone who wants to keep their current insurance will be able to keep it.”
The campaign cited a statement issued by Pryor in December 2009 that “elements of this package will … protect and expand an individual’s choice of doctors and insurance plans without any government interference.”
“It may not have been the exact same words, but it was the same concept: That Obamacare will not take your insurance away from you,” Cotton said Friday in a phone interview.
“I don’t know if I’d say I share the blame,” Pryor told reporters Friday. “I’d say that I want this to work. I think most people in Arkansas want this to work.
“Hopefully, starting now and moving into the future you’ll see the (federal insurance marketplace) website improve … and I’m hoping that what you’ll see is, when people actually have a chance to go on the website and look at the options they have available in their states and then also look at the tax credits, my understanding is that quite a number of people, most people, will be better off than they were in that individual market,” he said.
Pryor is co-sponsoring a bill by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would allow people to stay on non-grandfathered plans if they choose. Cotton supports similar legislation in the House, and Pryor’s campaign Friday criticized the congressman’s camp for describing Pryor’s support as a “symbolic gesture.”
In Little Rock on Friday, Pryor said some in Washington are defending the president by saying his claim was true for 95 percent of the population.
“To me, that 5 percent, you still need to honor that too,” he said.
Cotton said Pryor voted for the Affordable Care Act and for the specific regulation requiring some people to lose their current plans, so “it’s a little late in the day for Mark Pryor to get political cover from a controversy like this.”
In September 2010, Senate Democrats voted unanimously to defeat a Republican resolution to block implementation of the rule for deciding which plans would be exempt from the more stringent standards for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Spokespeople for Pryor’s campaign did not immediately return calls or an email seeking comment late Friday afternoon.