Dems press Obama for health fix

More than a dozen anxious Senate Democrats facing reelection next year met with President Obama at the White House Wednesday to review the administration’s progress in fixing technical problems hobbling the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

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Senators told Obama point blank that his administration needs to fix glitches that have left many of their constituents fuming and could threaten the pary's majority in the 2014 midterm elections.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable in this day and age that the administration can’t deliver on the promises it made to all Americans because of technical problems with a website,” Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), one of the chamber’s most vulnerable incumbents, said in a statement after the meeting.

“Alaskans should be appreciating the critical benefits of the Affordable Care Act but there is an understandable crisis in confidence because the administration has yet to get it off the ground,” he said.

Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.), another Democrat facing a tough election next year, pressed Obama to overhaul HealthCare.gov as quickly as possible.

"The rollout of HealthCare.gov has not been smooth — to say the least — and I shared the concerns of Coloradans directly with the president,” Udall said after the meeting.

“I urged the president again to extend the enrollment period to give consumers enough time to make an informed decision about their family's health insurance options," Udall said.

Udall said Obama should carefully review whether there are adequate safeguards for the personal information of people who apply for health plans through insurance exchanges. Republican critics have warned in recent days the government website could expose the private information of thousands of applicants.

"I also told the president that, for the Affordable Care Act to succeed, consumers need to be confident their personal information is secure,” Udall said. “We need to do everything in our power to protect the online marketplace from hackers and cyberattacks."

Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, attended the meeting as well.

The president reiterated that his administration has made protecting the privacy and security of consumers information a top priority, according to a White House official.

The president also discussed ongoing efforts to fix HealthCare.gov and increase communication and outreach to people who could lose or see changes to their healthcare plans because of the new law.

“The president emphasized that he shared the senators’ commitment to ensuring that Americans who want to enroll in health insurance through the marketplaces are able to do so in time for the insurance to start as early as Jan. 1,” said the White House official.

The White House official noted the open enrollment period lasts until March 31.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who did not join the meeting, told reporters Wednesday that the faulty rollout of the Affordable Care Act likely narrowed Terry McAuliffe’s margin of victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial race.

“I do think concerns about the Affordable Care Act made the margin narrower than it might have been,” he said.

But he expressed confidence the administration could fix HealthCare.gov quickly.

 “You can fix it by a year from now,” he said. “The fixes are very doable.”

The Democratic senators who attended the meeting were Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Chris Coons (Del.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Al Franken (Minn.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Tom Udall (N.M.) and Mark Warner (Va.), in addition to Begich, Bennet and Mark Udall.

Vice President Biden also attended the session, which lasted for two hours.

—Justin Sink and Elise Viebeck contributed. 

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