Panel approves bill letting people keep old health insurance plans

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would let people on group health insurance plans keep policies that don’t conform to ObamaCare’s standards.

The legislation, approved almost down a party-line 27-20 vote, is meant to respond to those who said their health plans were cancelled because of the new healthcare law, which required plans to meet minimum coverage standards.

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Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), voted with their Republican colleagues.

This isn't the first time the two Democrats voted against their own party. Recently, they sided with Republicans on a patent bill.

Barrow is facing a tough re-election campaign and Matheson represents a Republican-leaning district.

There was an outcry last year when many people said they lost their insurance plans despite President Obama’s pledge that under the healthcare law, people would be able to keep their plans if they liked them.

“The president and supporters of ObamaCare said numerous times if you like your healthcare you can keep it….the promise was false,” said Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the bill’s sponsor. “My legislation is meant to do one thing, provide relief to American workers and let them keep their health care plan.”

The Obama administration in response to last year’s controversy changed rules so that old plans cancelled under the new standards could still be kept for as long as Jan. 1, 2016.

Cassidy is challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) in a race that could decide the Senate’s majority. The congressman has used ObamaCare as a major weapon to attack Landrieu, who voted for the law.

During a heated hour-long debate Democrats on the committee jumped on the bill as another push by Republicans to kill the Affordable Care Act.

“The legislation before us would let insurance companies discriminate against small businesses,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cali.), the committee’s ranking member.

“Republicans are claiming this is just an effort to help people keep the coverage they have. Lets be honest…you’re not losing your old coverage you’re are getting better coverage.”

Republicans say people should have the right to pick insurance plans even if they don’t offer the minimum coverage required by ObamaCare.

Democrats argued letting people choose “lousy” plans hurts consumers and the healthcare system by making taxpayers pay the bill when people end up in the emergency room because their plan didn’t have coverage.

“What good is an insurance plan if it doesn’t cover hospitalization,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). “This bill would allow those 2013 plans to stay on the market forever, that means consumers wouldn’t have the protections that went into effect this year.”