Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has introduced legislation that would allow people to keep their current health insurance.
(Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)
WASHINGTON - The White House is stepping up damage control efforts on Capitol Hill where a growing number of Democrats are seeking distance from the Affordable Care Act as dissatisfaction rises over the bungled roll-out of the health care website.
Democratic angst grew Wednesday after the White House announced that just over 100,000 people had successfully enrolled in the new health care exchanges. The administration had initially projected some 500,000 would be enrolled by now.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said White House officials will meet privately Thursday with Senate Democrats to discuss those concerns.
He declined to comment further, but a growing number of Senate Democrats are lining up behind a bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would allow people to keep their current health insurance plans.
BREAKDOWN: Health care enrollment numbers by state
Two of her Democratic supporters are also running for re-election in 2014 in conservative states, but the bill has also drawn support from Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Dianne Feinstein of California, who are not facing re-election. They have both raised concerns about how many people are receiving cancellation notices on their current policies.
"I think a lot of it is that people were assured that they could keep their policy," Feinstein told reporters, in reference to the president's often-stated claim that people who like their insurance could keep it.
People are seeing their current coverage dropped or costs rising for existing policies in part because the new health care law includes stricter policy standards - such as coverage for preventive care - and insurers have raised costs to help pay for the new requirements.
A similar bill offered by House Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton, R-Mich., will get a Friday vote in the House, where it is expected to pass with some Democratic support. The vote will be a signal of the party's skittishness over the law, because Democrats have provided near-unanimous opposition to previous GOP efforts to repeal or roll back the law.
White House advisers David Simas and Michael Hash met with House Democrats on Wednesday and urged them to oppose the bill because it would jeopardize the foundation of the law.
"I don't want to do anything willfully to dilute or harm the Affordable Care Act, I think it's a good bill," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who said much of the ongoing turmoil within the party is over the technical glitches that have hamstrung HealthCare.gov. "They need to be resolved as soon as possible."
Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., said that White House officials told Democrats they were working to address their concerns. He also said House Democrats could put forward a bill of their own to address concerns with the health care law.
Democratic frustrations over the website, the policy cancellations and the poor messaging from the White House have reignited GOP calls for a full repeal.
"It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
"I don't think it's fixable. I think we ought to start over," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The White House continues to lean on Democratic leaders to keep the party in line. While a number of Senate Democrats have broken with the administration, Reid controls the floor and has not committed to a vote on Landrieu's bill. House Democratic leaders are also urging Democrats to vote against Upton's bill.