Democratic senators have new ideas for health care law

David LightmanTribune News Service

Six Senate Democrats Thursday unveiled proposals to make changes in the Affordable Care Act, the health care law under fire from conservatives and Republicans. Two senators, Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, are considered among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats this year as they face tough re-election efforts.

Joining them in proposing new ideas for the health care law are Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Mark Warner, D-Va., Angus King, Ind.-Maine and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

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

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.

Commonsense Competition and Access to Health Insurance.... 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

Small Business Tax Credits Accessibility Act....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

Small Business Stability Act...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

Treating Families Fairly ....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

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 healthcare.govmaking it easier for individuals and families to access quality health insurance

Enhancing Access for Agents and Brokers Act (Sens. Landrieu, Heitkamp, Warner, Begich, Manchin)...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

David Lightman
McClatchy Washington Bureau