by Caroline Rayburn –
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on Wednesday, May 7th, entitled, “PPACA Enrollment and the Insurance Industry.” This hearing was one convened to gather more information surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known more commonly as “ObamaCare,” from the very actors charged with crafting and selling new health insurance plans. Amidst a slew of delays of particular ACA provisions, insurance companies have been required to navigate the convoluted, murky waters of ObamaCare. Representatives from several major insurers and trade groups – including Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Aetna, Cigna, Health Care Service Corporation, and WellPoint, Inc. – were called to testify before the Subcommittee, which sought to obtain specific information regarding the impacts of ObamaCare on premiums, care, and the American people.
Unable to obtain specific ACA numbers and details from the Obama Administration, the Subcommittee turned to insurers during the hearing to shed light on how ObamaCare is really faring on Main Street. “The public deserves transparency,” stated Representative Fred Upton (R-MI). Perhaps the most notable statistic presented to the Subcommittee was that many of the insurance representatives indicated that as many as 80%-90% of enrollees had paid their first month’s premium. Since the White House released its enrollment figures in April, speculation has persisted as to how many of those “enrollees” had actually paid their premiums. This information provided some clarity for the Subcommittee.
Still, Republican members of the Subcommittee continued to emphasize their concern for how ObamaCare may impact the American people in the coming months and years. Insurers will be required to submit their premium rates for 2015, likely by the end of June, and many fear that consumers could see significant, possibly double-digit, rate increases. Insurance representatives testifying at the hearing all stated that they had not been in touch with the White House regarding the 2015 rates nor did they have any information regarding the rates that they could provide to the Subcommittee at this time. When asked by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) if premiums will be lowered by “ up to $2,500 for a typical family per year,” a promise made by President Barack Obama, the witnesses confirmed that this will not prove to be true – adding to the president’s string of broken ObamaCare promises.
Members of the Subcommittee also expressed concern about the ongoing problems with HealthCare.gov. After a chaotic, dysfunctional rollout of the Administration’s health care website, HealthCare.gov remains incomplete, and the back-end of the website has yet to be constructed. The Subcommittee’s Ranking Member, Diana DeGette (D-CO) asserted that although past criticism may have been warranted, it is false to continue to claim the website has not been repaired. “The Republican Party is trying to scare families from getting the health insurance they need,” argued Rep. DeGette. When questioned if HealthCare.gov had been fixed by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), all six witnesses agreed that the website still needs improvement.
During Rep. Gardner’s questioning, he spoke to the important role the free market has traditionally played in health care. Mark Pratt, Senior Vice President of State Affairs for AHIP, plainly stated that it is AHIP’s goal to maximize choice and competition within the industry. According to Rep. Gardner, this quest is being fundamentally derailed by the ACA’s intrusive mandates and provisions – those which were responsible for the cancelation of millions of individual health care plans. Excessive government regulation is at the center of ObamaCare and will continue to influence every aspect of the health care industry in the future.
According to a memorandum released by the Majority staff of the Subcommittee, “The insurance industry also will be on the frontline for how consumers and patients experience [ObamaCare] this year. While there may be an effort to control costs, limitations on plan networks and doctor choices may impact medical care choices.” Republicans and Democrats will continue to draw their own conclusions about how effective ObamaCare has been in extending quality, affordable health care to uninsured Americans. Ultimately, Americans will judge ObamaCare based on its ability – or inability – to provide high-quality care at a reasonable cost, and there will certainly be political implications for what the American people decide. AMAC will continue to closely monitor the gradual implementation of ObamaCare and study the impact it has on individuals and the health care industry at large.