story by Talk Business and The City Wire staff
U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., now supports an extension of the individual enrollment sign-up period for the new federal health care law – a position his political opponent Tom Cotton was quick to criticize.
Earlier on Wednesday (Oct. 23), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., released a letter sent to President Obama urging him to stall and clarify aspects related to individuals attempting to enroll in the new health insurance exchanges.
“The difficulty that people in New Hampshire and in other states that are relying on the federally facilitated marketplaces are experiencing is incredibly frustrating and disappointing,” she said.
“Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014. Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll,” Shaheen said.
“Further, in light of the difficulties individuals may be having with enrolling through healthcare.gov, I ask that you clarify how the individual responsibility penalty will be administered and enforced. If an individual is unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems with enrollment, they should not be penalized because of lack of coverage,” she added.
Pryor, who faces re-election in 2014, said he also supports pushing back the March 31, 2014 deadline, but neither he nor Shaheen advocated a firm deadline for the extension.
“I read Senator Shaheen’s letter today and support the common sense idea to extend the date for open enrollment. I believe, given the technical issues, it makes sense to extend the time for people to sign up. In addition, the Administration should state clearly how the enforcement mechanism will work if people can’t sign up in time. We all want to see the law work, and I hope the Administration will take a hard look at this reasonable suggestion,” Pryor said in a statement.
The campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, who is challenging Pryor in his re-election bid, seized on the extension request to criticize Pryor.
“Clearly Senator Pryor has seen the writing on the wall that he and President Obama are rightfully taking the blame from Arkansans for a partial government shutdown that could have been avoided,” said Cotton campaign manager Justin Brasell.
Continuing, he noted: “What’s most disturbing is that it takes bad poll numbers to convince Senator Pryor to finally do the right thing for Arkansans. Thousands of Arkansas families are losing their current coverage or seeing their health insurance premiums and deductibles go up, or seeing their hours cut at work. Now they must head into the holidays with the uncertainty being caused by this disastrous law brought to us by Senator Mark Pryor. Had Senator Pryor been more concerned about Arkansas families than DC politics, we could have avoided a government shutdown and could have already provided families and individuals with the same reprieve from this mess that the Administration gave big businesses months ago.”