The House of Representatives approved the “Keep Your Health Plan Act” Friday, which would allow health care insurers to continue to sell plans that don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s “essential health benefits” standard next year. The bill, introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), received the support of 39 Democrats as well as all but four Republicans.
The vote was the first congressional referendum on the Obamacare rollout, as opposed to the Affordable Care Act itself, which was the main cause of division during the 16-day partial government shutdown. The number of dissenting Democrats would likely have been higher had President Obama not announced, as he did on Thursday, a fix that would allow insurers to offer cancelled health care plans back to their customers so long as they add a notification of other options under the new federal marketplace. The President had been under growing pressure after he had explicitly and repeatedly told Americans that they could keep their old plan if they liked it.
Of the 39 Democrats who broke with the White House to support the bill, 16 are freshman and 27 won their 2012 election with less than 55 percent of the vote, according to TIME’s analysis. By contrast, only 8 of the 153 Democrats voting against the bill had such close races last time around.
But Democrats who supported Upton’s plan pushed back on the suggestion that their vote revealed a fraying relationship between the legislative and executive branches.
“I don’t think he should see it as a growing rift between the two, but rather as a need to call everybody together to fix the problem,” said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.). “And that includes Republicans who are intent on fixing the problem and not gutting the entire act.”
Upton’s law has little chance of success in the Senate, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and others have offered alternative bills. Insurers are complaining about all options, which provide little time to adequately inform customers before the new year and could lead to higher premiums. But after insurance companies cancelled health care plans to comply with Obamacare, the President felt he had to move. Earlier this week, Obama earned a record low 39% approval rating in a Quinnipiac University survey, with a majority of those polls believing the president untrustworthy.