Congress has done the unthinkable: started down a bipartisan path toward fixing a broken health-care system.
Over the past week, the House and Senate set forward plans to fix problems plaguing Obamacare. The move is a stark departure from the previous Republican plans of replacing Obamacare altogether or repealing it and punting on a solution until a later date. While it’s a welcome change in strategy that’s more likely to gain traction than repeal/replace plans, the bipartisan efforts fall short of addressing four key areas instrumental to stabilizing the Affordable Care Act for the long run.
The two recently announced bipartisan plans take different approaches to fixing Obamacare, and the differences are immediately apparent.
Aetna chief executive Mark Bertolini has no confidence Congress and the Obama administration can move past politics in an election year and make changes he believes would stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s public exchanges.
But he’s got some ideas he hopes the next Congress and White House will consider to shore up so-called “risk pools” to attract more healthy people to buy policies. Healthy people paying premiums into the “pool” are critical to cover the costs of the mounting claims of sick Americans signing up to individual private coverage on exchanges. And that’s been a problem for Obamacare.
Is there already a split between new Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Congress?
Burwell was given a June 24th congressional deadline to list funding sources of Obamacare “risk corridors.” The corridors (Temporary Risk Corridors Program) were established under the Affordable Care Act transferring money from healthier, less costly patients, to those sicker and more expensive to insure. Ferdous Al-Faruque reveals in his report for The Hill on June 11, 2014, that risk corridors are being called into question again.
Also, according to The Hill, Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) wrote to Burwell claiming while she has authority to oversee the risk corridors, nothing grants her funding powers. This raises another question. Is Matthews in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act? Sources for both Senators’ views and questions come from findings by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the government Accountability Office (GAO).
The White House has until Friday, November 15, 2013 to get President Barack Obama’s healthcare initiative (“Obamacare”) back on track or top Democrats may defect to support a House GOP bill to change it.
Political pressure from both Republicans and Democrats has been steadily growing and will come to a head on Friday when Republicans take up a proposal by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton allowing individuals to keep their current coverage even if it does not meet the standards set out in the Affordable Care Act.
Democrats in Congress are fearful their once-safe seats are now threatened in the 2014 midterm elections because of Obamacare. They expressed their anger and frustration at a close-door session at the White House on Wednesday, November 13, 2013.
“They heard our caucus,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-NJ. “In this business, you keep your word or get out.”
In the Senate, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri reportedly said, “The [ObamaCare] store’s open and the door’s locked.”
“I’m frustrated and angry along with everyone else,” she declared.
House Speaker John Boehner Monday, September 30, 2013, called on colleagues to ban an exemption lawmakers and staff receive for health insurance, but he and his aides had worked for months with Democratic leaders to save the subsidies, leaked documents and emails show.
The revelations are sure to cause more friction between Boehner and more conservative members of the House of Representatives, who have been pressing for all Obamacare exemptions for Congress to be scrapped.
Obamacare requires lawmakers and staff to join insurance exchanges, and the debate over whether they should continue collecting the federal government’s employer contribution has led to much controversy and heated discussions.
Democratic leaders increased their efforts on Tuesday, September 19, 2012, to scuttle an amendment sponsored by Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, that would prevent Congressional members and staffers from receiving exemptions from key Obamacare measures.
When Congress passed Obamacare in 2010, an amendment required that lawmakers and their staff members purchase health insurance through the online exchanges that the law created. They would lose generous coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The amendment’s author, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, argued that if Obamacare plans were good enough for the American public, they were good enough for Congress. Democrats, eager to pass the reforms, went along with it.
But it soon became apparent the provision did not allow federal contributions toward employee health plans that cover about 75 percent of the premium costs. Fears arose that the staff would suddenly face sharply higher healthcare costs and leave federal service.
However on Wednesday, August 7, 2013, the Office of Personnel Management (the federal government’s human resources agency) proposed a rule so that Congress will evade the most onerous impact of law as it was written.
The Politico website broke the story that Congressional leaders wanted to exempt themselves and their staff from ObamaCare. House Speaker John Boehner twittered after the Politico story appeared, saying that he’s not “sneaking any language into bills to solve” a problem for Democrats. He added that full repeal of the law is “the solution to this & other ObamaCare nightmares.” The larger truth here is that this story goes back to 2009, when Democrats who passed ObamaCare tried repeatedly to exempt themselves or their key aides.