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Politics & Government

Rep. Wasserman Shultz: We've Made Good On Health Law Committments


We turn now to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Welcome to the program.


CORNISH: Now, we heard about the president's plan grandfathering in insurance policies that don't comply with the new health law so that people, if they want, can keep the plans that might otherwise have been canceled. It only lasts through 2014. Is this really a fix?

SCHULTZ: Well, this has always been the intent of the president and congressional Democrats that when the Affordable Care Act was implemented that if people liked their plans, they could keep it. And they will be able to do that with this administrative fix through the end of 2014. And the administration has committed to taking a look at where we are in the marketplaces and the transitions to those marketplaces by the end of 2014.

But keeping in mind that the insurance companies are going to need to notify individual insureds that these plans that they're keeping are not subject to the new protections and benefits that the Affordable Care Act plans will be. And that's an important distinction.

CORNISH: But regarding this promise that people could keep health care plans if they like it, do you regret that Democrats campaigned on this promise given - you're calling it a transition, but what people saw, mass cancellation letters.

SCHULTZ: Well, there weren't mass cancellation letters, let's be clear. I mean, this was less than 5 percent to the individual insurance market. It's still a lot of people. But those plans that got those cancellation notices really were letters that gave people an opportunity to transition from the coverage that they had in the overwhelming majority of cases to new coverage that provided better benefits and lower costs.

But with this change today, President Obama has done what we have said we always intended to do. And now we need to move forward, let's implement the Affordable Care Act. What we don't need to do is go backwards, which is what the Upton bill would do on the House floor tomorrow, because it would allow not only for people to keep their plan if they like it, but it would allow new policies to be sold that could allow insurance companies to drop them or deny them coverage.

CORNISH: At the same time, there is a similar law in the Senate from a Democrat, Mary Landrieu.

SCHULTZ: No, there's not, on the contrary. Mary Landrieu's bill simply allows people to keep the plans they like. It does not allow for new policies to be sold under the pre-Affordable Care Act requirements.

CORNISH: But it does allow people to grandfather in their existing policies if they want to keep it.

SCHULTZ: Right. And that's what President Obama's waiver of that rule today accomplishes as well.

CORNISH: And this is something that Democrats are interested in in the Senate, and you're also hearing more Democrats in the House talk about signing onto a plan like this as well.

SCHULTZ: Well, and that's something that we may need to look at codifying. You know, the president has taken care of this concern administratively. But, you know, the Landrieu legislation would put what President Obama has done administratively, you know, and codify it and...

CORNISH: But it would be very different in that it would be indefinite. The president's plan last only through 2014.

SCHULTZ: With an opportunity to look at it and continue it. And so - look, I mean, when we go through the legislative process, you know, if Mary Landrieu's bill moves forward, there are opportunities to make amendments to it.

CORNISH: Congresswoman, do you still see Democrats running on health care as a signature achievement in the next elections?

SCHULTZ: I do. And people have already benefited since 2010 from the Affordable Care Act benefits, young adults being able to...

CORNISH: So despite all of the recent controversy, you think this can be overcome?

SCHULTZ: I think, because people have already felt the benefits through lower prescription drug cost for seniors, young adults being able to stay on their parent's insurance till they're 26, preventative care being able to be available without a co-pay or deductible and the benefits that come online on January 1st, this will be an advantage for Democrats to run on.

CORNISH: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat from Florida and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, thank you so much for speaking with us.

SCHULTZ: Thank you. My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.