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Bill aims to resolve health care 'promise'

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 5:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013 9:50 a.m. CDT

Congressman Randy Hultgren has joined a Republican-led effort that could allow millions of Americans to keep their current insurance plans in 2014, even if they would have been dropped because of the new health care law.

Hultgren, R-Winfield, has co-sponsored the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” a bill introduced Monday that would allow any insurance plans in effect in 2013 to continue through 2014.

The bill comes after people in the individual or small-business insurance marketplaces are starting to receive cancellation notices from insurers, who say their current plans come Jan. 1 won’t cover certain “essential” health care services required by the Affordable Care Act.

Hultgren said the bill seizes on a broken promise made by President Barack Obama in 2009 and repeated throughout his 2012 re-election campaign.

“This bill is a response to promises made to my constituents that are not being kept,” Hultgren told the Northwest Herald.

Obama emphatically stated in 2009 that people who like their current health insurance plan would be able to keep it, adding “no one will take it away, no matter what.”

Now his assurance is proving empty for people who are getting cancellation notices and for workers who are beginning to see jarring changes in their employer-provided plans. Although they are a minority of the insured, they are adding up to millions of people.

Hultgren’s office has received dozens of calls from constituents, who are concerned they will lose their existing coverage and be forced to pay higher deductibles and receive less coverage.

Hultgren recalled a constituent who was informed by her insurer that her family of five would lose existing coverage and be charged at least $370 more a month for less coverage from an alternative plan.

In response to the growing criticism, Obama has said people seeing their individual policies canceled should “just shop around” on the exchanges and get another one.

The essential services required in the law includes preventative care and mental health services. Many of the services could leave Americans healthier, but it would come at a much higher price than the plans insurers are canceling in 2014.

Hultgren said the legislation that aims to keep those plans intact could see a vote in the U.S. House sometime in November. More than 85 of his Republican colleagues have signed onto to the bill. The list includes Illinois Reps. Adam Kinzinger and John Shimkus.

The latest criticism comes after the Obama administration has scrambled to fix the law’s online enrollment troubled by glitches and malfunctions since its launch.

The bill, if passed through the GOP-led House, could face stiffer opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“We are hearing more from senators who are frustrated themselves about the broken website and other issues with the law,” Hultgren said. “I’m more optimistic each day that senators are hearing what we are hearing from constituents.”

• The Associated Press contributed to this report

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