March 27, 2014

Manchin, Senate Democrats Propose Ideas to Make the Affordable Care Act Work Better

Initiative would expand access, increase affordability and improve flexibility for workers and businesses

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), along with Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Angus King (I-Maine) proposed a series of commonsense pieces of legislation that take the next steps toward making the Affordable Care Act work better. The bills would make changes to the law in three key areas by:

  • Offering more convenient and greater access to coverage;
  • Providing greater choice and increasing affordability; and
  • Improving flexibility for workers and businesses.

The Senators authored an op-ed in Politico laying out their latest ideas. Click here to read the op-ed.

“Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, there have been many problems exposed in the law that need to be addressed,” Sen. Manchin said. “We’ve worked through a few of these issues, but our job in Congress is far from over. We need to continue working together to fix this law and make it work so that all Americans have access to affordable, reliable and high-quality healthcare. I will continue to work with my Democrat and Republican colleagues, putting political disagreements aside so we can improve healthcare quality, access and affordability to all Americans.”
“I have long said there are some good pieces of the health care reform law and some pieces that need to be fixed,” said Sen. Heitkamp. “Today, we’re announcing needed fixes to improve the parts of the law that could work better for families and businesses across North Dakota – as I pledged to do since before joining the Senate. It only makes sense that we continue to improve on the law so it can help more families access affordable, quality health care. Already, the law is providing coverage for those with preexisting conditions, putting consumers before insurance companies, and ending lifetime and annual caps. But we can do more. I hope Democrats and Republicans will join us to find real solutions for more families.”
“I hear stories every day from individuals, families, and small businesses in Louisiana about how the Affordable Care Act is actually working to provide for first time quality and affordable choices in the health insurance marketplace,” Sen. Landrieu said. “They often comment that they are extremely happy that this is coverage they can finally count on. However, from some constituents I have picked up a few recommendations about how this law can work better. As I have said from the beginning, the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. No law is. That is why I am happy to join with several of my colleagues to put forth some ideas to make it work even better. I hope some, if not all of these, suggestions will gain support from Republicans and Democrats to become law.”
“I’ve said from the very beginning that we need we need to make some fixes so the health care law works better for Alaskans,” said Sen. Begich. “Alaskans want real results which is why I have laid out a series of common sense solutions to increase choices for consumers, eliminate unnecessary burdens, and make the health care law more flexible for families and businesses.”

“Before, during and after the debate over health reform, I consistently said that The Affordable Care Act was not perfect, and that Congress would have to revisit the ACA to correct problems for consumers and employers as this new, improved system was implemented,” Sen. Warner said. “We have listened closely to Virginia consumers, employers, providers and insurers to identify and work through some of these challenges. We have designed some targeted, common-sense improvements to keep what works and improve what could work better for Virginia families and employers, and we will continue to look for ways to make the ACA work better for everybody.”
“While the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, the truth is that health insurance saves lives. I know this from personal experience. Forty years ago, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, but thankfully, my doctor caught it early enough for treatment. I truly believe that if I hadn’t had a job that provided me with health insurance, I would not be here today,” said Sen. King. “Sadly, there are millions of Americans who haven’t been as fortunate. About 45,000 people die every year from a lack of health insurance, a statistic I find completely unacceptable, and I can’t understand why saving lives has become such a bitterly partisan issue.”
Providing Greater Choice and Increasing Affordability
Expanded Consumer Choice Act (S. 1729) (Sens. Begich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Manchin, King)
Provides a new lower cost, high-deductible option called the Copper Plan, in addition to the existing Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze options in the marketplace that would give consumers more control over their own coverage, spur competition, and, most importantly, increase affordability. The new Copper Plan would meet the essential benefits laid out by the Affordable Care Act.
Supporters:  Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Communicating for America, Evolution1, Healthcare Leadership Council, National Association for the Self-Employed, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, National Retail Federation, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, The National Grange 
Increased Competition for Consumers Act (S. 1333) (Sens. Begich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Manchin)
Restores startup funds for new consumer-driven health insurance cooperatives, now operating in 23 states. This will allow families to have more options to access health coverage beyond traditional insurance companies, infusing state marketplaces with more competition to reduce average premiums. These nonprofit health care co-ops are already offering good options for thousands of consumers in states like Louisiana and Maine.
Supporters:  National Alliance of State Health Care Cooperatives
Commonsense Competition and Access to Health Insurance Act (Sens. Warner, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Begich, Manchin)
Increases consumer choice by directing state insurance regulators to develop models for states to sell health insurance across state lines. These multi-state models will help us discern the benefits and challenges of selling health insurance in this manner, and determine if it is a means to increasing choice and competition among plans – potentially driving down costs while maintaining quality and value.
Improving Flexibility for Workers and Businesses
Small Business Tax Credits Accessibility Act (S. 2069) (Sens. Begich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Manchin, King)
Improves flexibility, increases affordability, and eases the transition for our small businesses by making Small Business Health Care Tax Credits available for a longer period of time and accessible to more employers. Small businesses would be able to spend less time and money worrying about how they will provide coverage for their employees. Expanding the current tax credits to include businesses with fewer than 50 employees – instead of the current cap at 25 employees – would provide a real benefit to hundreds of thousands of small businesses and allow them to offer quality care while recruiting and retaining talented employees.
Supporters: National Association of Health Underwriters
Small Business Stability Act (Sens. Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Begich, Manchin, King) 
Expands the option for voluntary coverage to employers with fewer than 100 employees, about 98 percent of all businesses. This will provide certainty to small businesses as they make decisions for their businesses and flexibility for planning and growth.
Supporters:  National Retail Federation, National Restaurant Association, and National Association of Home Builders 
Commonsense Reporting Act (Sens. Warner, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Begich, Manchin)
Reduces the administrative burden for businesses by further streamlining and simplifying reporting requirements for health insurance coverage.
Treating Families Fairly Act (Sens. Manchin, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Begich)
Counts family members working for the same business and on the same employer health plan as one full-time equivalent employee for the purposes of ensuring larger businesses offer coverage to their full time workers.

More convenient and greater access to coverage
Consumers Having Options in Choosing Enrollment (CHOICE) Act (Sens. Landrieu, Heitkamp, Warner, Begich, Manchin)
Provides a permanent path for consumers to seamlessly enroll directly through insurers or certified web-based entities, in addition to enrolling through, making it easier for individuals and families to access quality health insurance.

Supporters: America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)
Enhancing Access for Agents and Brokers Act (Sens. Landrieu, Heitkamp, Warner, Begich, Manchin)
Improves access for agents and brokers to help families and small businesses enroll in health plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Agents and brokers are trusted advisors for many families and businesses and should be able to help with these kinds of decisions.
Supporters:  National Association of Health Underwriters, Health Agents for America, National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors