CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) says people should not be penalized for failing to sign up for healthcare insurance if the enrollment system does not work properly.
Manchin said that is why he is working with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) on a proposal to delay for one year the penalties created in the Affordable Care Act.
“One year, it should be a one-year transition (with) no fines at all,” he said of the proposal on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval. “One year in transitioning into this law, trying to fix and repair the parts that are fixable and identifying those that might not be fixable.”
With the Manchin-Isakson proposal, the individual mandate would still take effect in January as scheduled.
It would be January 2015, though, before penalties for not having health insurance would take effect at the already established second year rates.
“You have to give it an effort to try to repair things, rather just throwing everything out, the way people have done,” said Manchin.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) is working on an alternative proposal that would push back the individual mandate, the requirement that people have health insurance or pay penalties starting in the New Year. Manchin said he aims to meet with Rubio next week to discuss the differences in their proposals.
On Capitol Hill Thursday, the contractors who built the problem-plagued healthcare.gov website—including CGI Federal—went before members of U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Those contractors testified confusion between companies and heavy website traffic have continued to bog down the portal for enrollment for coverage through the federal exchanges. West Virginia is one of more than 30 states participating in those federally run health insurance marketplaces.
Cheryl Campbell, CGI’s senior vice president, said the Obama Administration bears the responsibility for the continued problems as the “systems integrator or quarterback on this project.”
U.S. Health and Human Resources Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to testify in front of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee next week.
Manchin said the Affordable Care Act should do what it claims to do. “Nobody should be made to buy insurance that’s inferior to what they already have or costs more than what they already have. That’s not affordable health care,” he said.
If the penalties are delayed, Manchin said he’ll be working to address three questions in the coming year. “Is it affordable to people that have never been able to buy it before? Are we keeping people healthy? Are we driving down the costs of health care?”
The open enrollment period continues through March 31. To avoid penalties, White House officials said individuals who do not have health insurance will have to have it by then.