Feinstein, D-Calif., said Tuesday she was cosponsoring legislation honoring President Barack Obama's oft-repeated pledge allowing individuals who buy their own health plans to retain their current rates and health providers.
The bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., would let those who purchased coverage after the passage of the federal health care reform to hold onto the plans unless their insurer pulls out of the individual market.
Feinstein's support, the first from a senator representing a deep blue state, underscores the discomfort among some Democrats with the health law's uneven roll-out, including computer glitches that have hobbled early enrollment in several states. Earlier Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton was quoted saying he believed Obama should stand by his original commitment.
In her statement, Feinstein said the bill "provides a simple fix to a complex problem."
"The Affordable Care Act is a good law, but it is not perfect," she said. "I believe the Landrieu bill is a commonsense fix that will protect individuals in the private insurance market from being forced to change their insurance plan. I hope Congress moves quickly to enact it."
Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act would require that renewal notices inform customers of their options, including shopping for a new plan on the federal or a state insurance marketplace such as Covered California as well as mandate insurers to state why a plan does not meet new minimum standards established by the law.
Millions of Americans, including nearly 1 million in California, have been notified that their plans were being terminated Dec. 31 because they don't meet the minimum standards. Nearly 600,000 of the customers here can expect to pay more for coverage.
Feinstein said that in the last three months her office has received nearly 31,000 calls, emails and letters from constituents with many of them distressed by the cancellations and facing steep out-of-pocket monthly increases. A man from Rancho Mirage told the senator he would have to pay about $400 more a month through the exchange for essentially the same coverage.
"Too many Americans are struggling to make ends meet. We must ensure that in our effort to reform the health care system, we do not allow unintended consequences to go unaddressed.
A similar version to the bill is expected to be taken up in the GOP-led House later this week.
PHOTO: US Sen. Diane Feinstein talks to the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce at the Sacramento Convention Center, Tuesday Aug. 12, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer