A small group of Democratic legislators will do something unusual Wednesday morning: hold a press conference to talk about the parts of Obamacare that are broken.
Ten House Democrats will unveil a new plan to fix Obamacare, highlighting the parts of the law that have struggled to work and offering modest steps to improve them. The proposal includes more funding to help insurance plans cover the sickest patients, along with possibly changing the timing of the open enrollment season in hopes of attracting more Americans to sign up for insurance.
These Democrats are agitating for a new strategy, one where they speak openly about the health law's weak spots — particularly the individual market — and how to shore them up. The party has so far been reticent to highlight Obamacare's problems at a moment when Democrats are fighting against Republican efforts to repeal parts of the law.
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"We need an alternative to the 'just say no' policy that has pervaded Democrats up until now," says Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), who is involved with the new proposal. "Let's have that conversation. Let's fix the damn thing and get real."
The plan notably does not come from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office, which has not put forward any similar proposal. An aide said Pelosi was aware of this effort and supportive of the discussion, although did not comment on the specific policies.
Still, it represents a shift from congressional Democrats' Obamacare strategy thus far, which has largely focused on defending the law — alongside a mounting push for a single-payer-style health plan to replace it eventually.
"Some Democrats are fearful to talk about what is wrong with [Obamacare] for fear we'll be seen as abandoning it," says Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), a relatively progressive Democrat who supports Medicare-for-all. But he says now is a moment to talk about fixing Obamacare, and not single-payer. "There is the practical reality that we've got a Republican president and a Republican Congress," he says. "That's not the opportune moment for Medicare-for-all. We've got to defend what we have."