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Top Democrat joins push to keep health plans after Clinton's ObamaCare critique

 

An influential Democratic senator is now backing the push to restore insurance plans canceled due to ObamaCare, on the heels of a blunt critique from Bill Clinton on President Obama's handling of the health care law's rocky rollout. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Tuesday she is co-sponsoring a bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would force insurance companies to reinstate canceled policies that Obama repeatedly vowed that people could keep. 

Adding to the pressure on the administration, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also is hearing testimony Wednesday morning on the troubled HealthCare.gov website. Amid a report in The Washington Post that claims the site may not be fully functional by the end of the month, despite the president's promises, lawmakers will hear from top technology officials, including U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park. 

While the IT professionals try to fix the broken site, lawmakers are looking at ways to address the wave of cancellation notices. 

"The Affordable Care Act is a good law, but it is not perfect," Feinstein said in a statement. "I believe the Landrieu bill is a commonsense fix that will protect individuals in the private insurance market from being forced to change their insurance plan." 

The involvement of Feinstein in the push to restore canceled policies adds considerable pressure on the Obama administration to address those concerns. The president is rapidly facing questions and concerns from members of his own party about the law's rollout. 

Feinstein said she has received 30,842 calls, emails and letters from constituents about the cancellations and premium increases. A man from Rancho Mirage, her office said, told Feinstein that he is being forced to spend more than $400 extra per month for a similar policy.

“I believe consumers should be allowed to choose their plans, and they should be adequately informed about those choices," Feinstein said. "Consumers must be told what their coverage does and does not include so families don’t find themselves paying for an insurance policy they believe is comprehensive when, in fact, it is not."

Separately, House Republicans have scheduled a Friday vote on a proposal by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., that would allow insurers to continue selling insurance plans that would otherwise be banned under the law. 

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president's team is trying to figure out a way to offer relief to the millions of Americans who have received cancellation notices, though in doing so, it could inadvertently build the case for those calling for a delay in the law's implementation.

The statement comes after former President Clinton, in an interview with the site Ozy.com, said Obama should live up to his promise to Americans that if they like their health plans, they can keep them.

"So I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got," Clinton said.

Asked Tuesday if Obama agreed, Carney said: "The answer's yes."

Carney referred to Obama's comments to NBC News last week, when the president apologized for the cancellation notices and said the administration was looking at a "range of options" to address the issue.

But Carney spoke in additional detail on Tuesday, saying the president's team is specifically trying to help those Americans who have been forced off their plans into more expensive coverage, which they might struggle to afford.

"The president has tasked his team with looking at a range of options, as he said, to make sure that nobody is put in a position where their plans have been canceled and they can't afford a better plan, even though they'd like to have a better plan," Carney said.

It's unclear, though, how the administration could go about doing that. Insurance companies are the ones canceling policies -- due to new requirements under the health care overhaul -- and would likely have to be involved in any effort to restore coverage.

Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman with America's Health Insurance Plans, told FoxNews.com that all the myriad plans to reverse or stop the cancellation notices raise questions about how that would be achieved. He said in many cases, changes to existing policies have already been filed with state regulators and consumers have been notified.

"That's a lot to go back and unwind," he said, noting that any modified health plans would have to be reviewed and approved by state regulators.

"That typical process takes many months," he said.

The insurance industry generally does not support any delay in the implementation of the ObamaCare insurance mandates, out of concern that a delay would deprive them of much-needed customers at a time when they're dealing with the cost of additional coverage requirements.

But any effort to overhaul the cancellations might require an extended timeframe.

In his interview Tuesday, Clinton defended the health care law as a whole, but explained how the broken promise on health coverage can hurt young people. He relayed the story of a young man who said his individual market plan was canceled and replaced with one whose premiums were twice as high. Though his deductibles and co-pays were lower, that savings is only realized if he gets sick, Clinton explained.

Obama, in explaining the cancellation notices, has clarified that under ObamaCare, policies could be canceled if they had been altered in any way since the passage of the law.

That nuance was not included in the president's initial explanations.

The administration argues that while some are losing their current coverage, those plans will be replaced by better-quality insurance. The flip side is that they could be more expensive.