By – Peter A. Finocchio
On Wednesday, September 10th, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health convened to evaluate the implementation status of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as ObamaCare, by engaging two high-ranking Obama Administration officials tasked with key roles in its rollout. These two officials, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and Principal Deputy Administrator for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Andy Slavitt, responded to questions by concerned members of the Committee. Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) remarked that the hearing would grant the opportunity to “judge results rather than the rhetoric.”
Chairman Brady opened the meeting by affirming that the ACA’s implementation has not only failed to fix health care, but has made it even worse. Millions of families have lost their doctor and have seen their premiums spike because of ObamaCare’s taxes and regulations. The rollout has been disastrous, there have been numerous delays, and paperwork has gone missing. A hacking of the Healthcare.gov website in July, furthermore, put the personal information of millions of Americans at risk. Chairman Brady also accused the Administration of “exempting special interests and politically favored friends from portions of the law.” “That certainly doesn’t sound fair to me, and that is why this White House has lost my confidence,” the Texas Republican concluded.
Republicans also noted the withering trust between the American people and the Obama Administration. Of all the Administration’s shortcomings with this law, Chairman Brady held that the worst of all was that many Americans have lost trust in our government when it comes to keeping its promises. Congressman Brady asked Slavitt how his office was working to address the trust issue. Slavitt outlined a three-step process of transparency, accountability, and “straight talk.” The Chairman appreciated Slavitt’s efforts to restore trust, but continues to believe that the law is both poorly designed and poorly written. Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) agreed that “naturally there’s some credibility that needs to be restored.”
While Republican members raised concerns over ObamaCare’s less than stellar track record and urged the Administration to work to rebuild the public trust, their Democratic colleagues blamed the law’s shortcomings on “Republican sabotage.” Ranking Member Jim McDermott (D-WA) argued that ObamaCare “suffered due to Republican propaganda, senseless repeal votes, and harmful budget cuts.” He opined that the bill had survived “the Republicans’ best efforts at sabotage.” Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), while stating he had “a great amount of respect for… the other side,” accused Republicans of trying to starve the bill in order to kill it. “You know what’s going on here,” he told Koskinen and Slavitt, “If you can’t shoot the dog, starve it.”
In addition to blaming Republicans, Democrats also pivoted from the Administration’s failures by presenting a false choice between ObamaCare and the health care system as it was prior to its enactment. Congressman McDermott stated that before the ACA was enacted, 46 million Americans were uninsured and 45,000 had died because they lacked coverage to treat their health needs. McDermott held that prior to ObamaCare, “insurance companies could have hiked up rates with impunity” and refused to cover preexisting conditions. The Washington Democrat also said that the “smart states,” which had expanded Medicaid through ObamaCare have increased health coverage.
Yet, the reality of these state exchanges is very different than the rosy image painted by Congressman McDermott. Politico reported earlier this summer that state ObamaCare exchanges in Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and Maryland, receiving nearly half a billion dollars in federal money, “are now in shambles — and the final price tag for salvaging them may go sharply higher.” According to a White House Council of Economic Advisers report released in early July, the 24 states that have yet to expand Medicaid have saved federal taxpayers $88 billion.
AMAC has strongly opposed ObamaCare since it was first proposed in 2009. The approximately $716 billion in Medicare cuts that are used to pay for other parts of the bill, such as its dramatic expansion of the Medicaid rolls, are a hard hit on the nation’s senior citizens. Furthermore, whereas AMAC members understand the need for a simpler tax code, ObamaCare makes tax season even more difficult by requiring those who utilize health care subsidies to file a Form 8962, an entirely new tax form developed in order to enforce ObamaCare’s provisions. Those who purchase their plan on the marketplace will also need to file a Form 1095-A. AMAC believes tax filing should involve fewer forms, not more.
AMAC vehemently rejects the Democrats’ false dichotomy between ObamaCare and the preceding health system. AMAC supports numerous measures that would lower costs through market-friendly reforms and is a chief sponsor of the American Health Care Reform Act, a bill proposed nearly a year ago and supported by a majority of congressional Republicans that would lower costs by enabling Americans to purchase health care across state lines, reforming medical malpractice laws, allowing individuals and families to deduct health care costs just like companies, and safeguarding patients with preexisting conditions by bolstering state-based high risk pools and extending HIPAA guaranteed availability protections. AMAC will continue to fight ObamaCare and support real reforms that give American consumers, not the IRS, control over their health care choices.