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Democrats' Anxiety Grows Over Obamacare Problems

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee questioned Tavenner at Tuesday’s hearing on Obamacare.

“We have a couple in our office we’re kicking around but nothing to make public yet,” Begich said. “Whatever we can do to make sure people have insurance, we should be focused on. I’ve always said the whole law is not perfect, and you should always look for tweaks. I’m not afraid to tweak the law.”

The White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may be able to fend off meaningful defections for now. For example, Reid brushed off a question about allowing a vote on Landrieu’s bill Tuesday and dismissed McConnell’s remarks by saying the minority leader should worry about his fellow Republicans.

But if the administration can’t fix HealthCare.gov by the end of November as promised, there will be enormous pressure to do something. And apart from the mechanics of the law, the White House continues to struggle to explain how a key promise made by the president — that people would be able to keep their plans, “period” — isn’t coming true.

Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday blamed insurance companies for not continuing to offer the grandfathered plans, saying that they had pulled the rug out from under people.

The White House has not endorsed any legislative tweaks aimed at restoring those plans — and warned if some were to pass, they could undermine the broader law.

“If you are going to assert that insurance companies can continue to offer substandard plans, bad-apple plans for example, that do not provide hospitalization or have carve-outs that exempt from coverage the very chronic condition you may have, often in a way that the purchasers of this insurance don’t even know ... that undermines the fundamental promise of the Affordable Care Act, which is that everyone in America should have access to affordable, quality health care coverage,” Carney said.

And, of course, in speech after speech — until Obama added the caveat about insurance companies Monday night — the president had been emphatic. On Tuesday, one of Carney’s many attempts to explain away the president’s words went like this: “He didn’t say ... ‘if your insurance company cancels your plan and gives you something else that’s worse, you can keep it.’ He said that ‘if you had a plan — if you have a plan that you like, you can keep it.’”

Carney said the people affected were only a portion of the 5 percent of the population in the individual health insurance market. But that is still millions of people who are being told now that they can’t keep their plans, and it’s causing an enormous political headache on Capitol Hill.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

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