By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are not losing confidence in President Barack Obama’s ability to make the Affordable Care Act work and don’t fear Obamacare’s effect on their chances in next year’s elections.
Appearing Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Pelosi said, “I don’t think you can tell what will happen next year” when voters cast ballots in the mid-term elections, but “I will tell you this: Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act.”
She said implementation of the health care overhaul “is an issue that has to be dealt with, but it doesn’t mean, ‘oh, this is a political issue so we’re going to run away from it.’”
She said jobs will be the major issue in the 2014 campaign, not Obamacare.
Alluding to the nervousness some congressional Democrats are expressing about the debut of Obamacare, Pelosi said “What I love about health care professionals is that they’re calm. And we must remain calm when we talk about the health of our country.”
She added, “You can’t be knocked for a loop just because somebody is playing politics.”
In an indication of Democratic jitters’ over Obamacare, on Friday 39 of Pelosi’s House Democrats joined with 222 Republicans to vote for a bill sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., that would allow health insurance firms to continue to sell insurance plans next year that don’t comply with Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements.
The 39 Democrats included several who are in toss-up races such as Rep. Ron Barber of Arizona and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire. Explaining why those Democrats voted for the Upton bill, Pelosi said, “When the Republicans put forth a political initiative, people respond to it politically.”
Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina said that “what you saw in those 39 people -- and maybe nine people had real serious concerns -- the fact of the matter is about 30 of them, and I've talked to them, were insulating themselves against sound bites” in next year’s election campaign “and that's part of the problem.”
He said, “One of our big problems in Washington is that we tend to react to sound bites a little bit too often and, therefore, we tend to speak in sound bites.”
The Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats to recapture the majority in the House which they lost in the landslide election of 2010.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) “is a very important pillar of economic and health security for the American people” and “is right up there with Social Security (and) Medicare, affordable care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege,” Pelosi said.
In states such as Kentucky and her own state of California, she said, “It’s working very well.”
Pelosi said she stands by what she said before the bill passed, “I stand by what I said there: when people see what is in the bill they will like -- and they will.”
The California Democrat said the software problems that plague the enrollment website Healthcare.gov are “terrible,” but “will be fixed.”
“We fumbled the rollout on this health care law,” Obama said at a press conference Thursday. The troubled debut of the enrollment process has not only created problems for tens of thousands of Americans seeking insurance coverage, but has fed a growing sense of unease among congressional Democrats as they look to the 2014 elections and at Obama’s waning popularity.
Obama repeatedly pledged “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” but that pledge turned out to be false for many Americans who bought coverage in the individual market. Their plans don’t comply with the minimum benefit requirements of the ACA and they got cancellation notices.
Obama said Thursday that he knew “how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked, they could keep it. “
To ease the transition, Obama said he has decided to allow insurers to extend into next year current insurance plans that would otherwise be canceled. “Americans whose plans have been canceled can choose to re-enroll in the same kind of plan,” he said.
But some state insurance commissioners quickly rejected his idea. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners said allowing individual insurance plans that don’t comply with ACA requirements to continue into 2014 “threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond.”
And it’s unclear if insurance companies can un-cancel thousands of policies that they are cancelling due to the ACA requirements.