U.S. Sen. Mark Begich announced a change of heart about the healthcare law Thursday. In a statement, he said that given the problems with the federal exchange, he now supports extending the deadline to sign up for healthcare
delaying the individual mandate until the public can actually use the website intended to be a portal for the insurance.
“I have repeatedly said this law is not perfect and have proposed changes to make it work for Alaska families and small businesses,” he said in a written statement. “Given the recent website issues, I also support extending open enrollment season. I want to work with the administration to ensure that individuals are not unfairly penalized if technical issues with the website continue.”
Begich is among a handful of moderate Democrats in “red states” who called for the delay. Most of them are up for reelection in 2014 and their seats are considered vulnerable.
The online exchanges, or marketplaces, are part of the new healthcare law and were intended to be the place where consumers, who didn’t have it as part of their employment, could buy affordable insurance. The law requires most Americans to have coverage by Jan. 1 or face a fine.
But as the senators pointed out, it’s absurd to fine people who don’t purchase something that they can’t purchase because they can’t for technical reasons. The White House hasn’t ruled out a delay.
Joe Miller, a Republican who hopes to take Begich’s seat, used the opportunity to take a shot at Begich. In a release, Miller questioned if Begich was turning into one of the “knuckleheads” Begich has been criticizing in radio ads.
“Senator Begich called those who offered this compromise ‘a small band of knuckleheads’ who are ‘holding the country hostage over the health care law,’” Miller wrote. “I am happy to learn that Senator Begich has taken off his rose-colored glasses long enough to see one of the glaring flaws of Obamacare. Interestingly enough, the senator promised the people of Alaska that the healthcare exchange would function like buying airline tickets on Expedia. Well, let’s just say that was a little overly optimistic.”
Indeed, only a handful of Alaskans, at most, have been able to sign up for the health care exchange, which is widely considered a disaster.
Contact Amanda Coyne at email@example.com