CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller on Wednesday praised the Affordable Care Act and denounced what he called a "maniacal" Republican attack on the health-care reform law.
"I think it's a magnificent work," Rockefeller said during a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. "My people in West Virginia don't necessarily share that view right now, because I think they have the problem that so many others have -- that they simply don't know what's in the bill and because of the absolutely maniacal . . . Republican attack machine."
The West Virginia Democrat called for more focus on the benefits of the bill, which includes $10 billion in funding for the construction of 1,000 rural health clinics around the country, he said.
"Does anybody know that?" he said. "I don't think in West Virginia, and I don't think generally."
He went on to say he was stunned that, with the prospect of about 100 million uninsured or underinsured people getting coverage, the "president makes a couple statements that perhaps he shouldn't have made and that becomes the whole argument of all the letters."
The statements President Obama made are in regard to existing health-care plans.
"If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," Obama said several times. However, for those who purchased a plan on the individual market -- about 5 percent of the overall insurance market -- that hasn't been true. About 3.5 million Americans have received cancellation notices, according to estimates from The Associated Press.
According to the law, health insurance plans must include a specific set of 10 "essential benefits," including emergency care, mental health and maternity care. If they don't, they can be "grandfathered" in -- as long as they have existed continuously since before the law was enacted and have had no significant changes. Those that have changed since the law was enacted are not allowed under the new law.
During the hearing, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected calls to shut down Healthcare.gov until it can run properly. Sebelius said the site would be running correctly by the end of the month.
Sebelius also said her department will release information next week on the number of people who have enrolled in health insurance on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. She said she expects those numbers to be low because of Healthcare.gov's technical problems.
Rockefeller said he does not support delaying the ACA unless the Department of Health and Human Services cannot get the website up and running.
He called on Republicans to stop their attacks on Sebelius and the president.
Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.