WASHINGTON (AP) — After uniting against Republican efforts earlier this month to delay the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a growing number Democrats in Congress now want to extend the enrollment deadline, and one senator wants to delay the penalty for not complying.
Six Senate Democrats up for re-election next year have proposed delaying the new March 31 deadline for applying for coverage while the program’s problems are ironed out. A seventh, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, is co-authoring a bill to postpone the $95 penalty for people who fail to meet the deadline for acquiring insurance.
While their proposals are short on details, all argue that it’s not fair to hold millions of Americans accountable for buying insurancewhen the primary federal exchange enrollment site — the HealthCare.gov website — has prevented many people from doing it.
Even PPACA’s biggest boosters are aggravated that enrollment process for the national health care law they had hoped to tout on the 2014 campaign trail has gotten off to such a bad start.
“If we want this law to work, we’ve got to make it right, we’ve got to fix it,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., one of the law’s leading authors, said at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday on the sign-up problems.
Contractors for the health insurance website told the committee the government failed to thoroughly test the complex enrollment system before its Oct. 1 launch. The system crashed as soon as consumers tried to use it. A web of confusing deadlines and penalties for not obtaining health insurance persists.
As Democrats began to fret about the political consequences ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, the administration late Wednesday said it was granting what amounts to a six-week filing extension. The March 31 deadline for having insurance became the new deadline for applying for it.
But that’s not enough for a growing number of Senate Democrats.
Manchin is teaming with Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., on a bill that would waive for one year the $95 penalty for not enrolling in the program.