West Virginia's two U.S. senators are at odds when it comes to delaying a penalty in the massive national health care reform law.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wants to pull the fine associated with the individual mandate during the first year the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," is in effect.
That's not a good idea, said fellow West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller.
"We need to give health care reform time to work, not prematurely take pieces out of it," Rockefeller said in a statement emailed by a spokesman.
"The individual mandate is an important part of reform. No one has come up with a way to give people who don't have health insurance -- or who have lousy health insurance -- a fighting chance without it."
Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone is required to have health insurance. Anyone who does not must pay a fine. The deadline to sign up is March 31, according to a statement President Barack Obama's administration made Wednesday.
Obama and the Affordable Care Act don't poll well in West Virginia. Nationally, the individual mandate is a lightning rod for political debate.
Critics hate the idea of the government forcing someone to have health care. Supporters say it's the best way to ensure healthy young people sign up for the program, bringing down costs.
Manchin's not shy about stating his dislike of the mandate, and has done so repeatedly in recent years. His measure is not an attempt to cripple the entire law though, he said.
"This is not trying to kill anything. It's trying to improve or fix it," Manchin said Thursday afternoon in a conference call with reporters.
The fine for not having health insurance during the first year of the law is $95 or 1 percent of a person's taxable income, whichever is larger. During the second year, those totals jump to $325 and 2 percent, and continue to go up in subsequent years.
Manchin's measure -- created with Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. -- would eliminate the penalty in the first year. Starting Jan. 1, 2015, anyone without insurance would face the second-year penalty.