GOP lawmaker proposes ‘Keep Your Health Plan’ bill

November 4, 2013

A top House Republican has proposed legislation that would allow the continued use of health plans that existed before January 2013, regardless of whether the coverage meets Affordable Care Act standards.

The move comes as a growing number of Americans are complaining about losing their insurance or facing higher premiums because of the law, in addition to ongoing troubles with the online health exchange where individuals can purchase new coverage.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg).
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) introduced the bill, which would extend the date for plans that are “grandfathered,” or not required to follow the stricter guidelines under President Obama’s signature health-care legislation.

Currently, only plans offered up until the date when “Obamacare” became law in March 2010 are allowed to remain on the marketplace without meeting the new coverage rules.

Under the president’s health-care legislation, all individuals must obtain health insurance by the end of March to avoid paying a penalty.

Upton said in an editorial for USA Today that his bill, titled the Keep Your Health Plan Act, would provide a “voluntary escape hatch” for Americans who want to maintain their existing coverage.

“Implementation of the president’s health-care law has generated confusion and concern,” the congressman wrote. “That’s not what health reform should be about. Americans deserve to know that in times of need, they will have the coverage and care that they want, need and can afford.”

Health reporter Sarah Kliff explained in a recent Wonkblog article that many plans in existence prior to the grandfather deadline have been altered and will not qualify for an exemption to the new standards of the health-care law. That’s because insurance companies often tweak their plans, making changes to cost-sharing or the benefits they offer.

This raises questions about how effective Upton’s proposal would be in the long-run. It could buy time for some individuals, but their plans would still be likely to change over time and no longer qualify for the grandfather rule.

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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks | November 4, 2013