Posts Tagged ‘Washington Monthly’

Obama Calls the States’ Bluff on Healthcare Law Implementation

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

President Barack Obama is calling the states’ bluff on implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) by allowing them to opt out of its most onerous requirements three years earlier than currently permitted. Speaking at a meeting of the National Governors Association, Obama specifically pointed to a proposal from Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Scott Brown (R-MA) which he endorsed as a flexible approach.  “If you can come up with a better system for your state to provide coverage of the same quality and affordability as the Affordable Care Act, you can take that route instead,” Obama said, noting that, “If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does, without increasing the deficit, you can implement that plan and we’ll work with you to do it.”

The president endorsed the proposal to allow states to apply for “innovation waivers” beginning in 2014, three years earlier than originally scheduled. Under the terms of these waivers, states would be exempt from several of the law’s requirements if they set up their own method of adequately expanding coverage.  The “individual mandate” is the focus of multiple state lawsuits by states that contend it is unconstitutional.

The Obama administration has posted a detailed fact sheet on the proposal on the White House website. Additionally, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has blogged about it.

Despite lingering opposition to the healthcare reform law, the Obama administration is moving ahead with its implementation.  Over the last 10 months, HHS has made $2.8 billion available to states to help them start reforming their healthcare systems.  These funds let the states invest in improvements.  These investments are showing signs of progress thanks to more comprehensive oversight of insurance premium increases, new rights and protections for consumers, additional choices for people living with medical conditions, and the elimination of some of the worst insurance industry practices.

The bipartisan proposal’s future is uncertain, with both Democrats and Republicans casting wary eyes at it. Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House majority leader, said the healthcare law is “an impediment to job growth” and that he is still committed to repealing the ACA.  “I was disappointed,” said Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) and chairman of the Republican Governors Association.  “Pretty much all he did was to reset the clock on what many of us consider a ticking time bomb that is absolutely going to crash our state budgets.  The states need more than that.”  Even some Democrats are cautious because they believe that it is impossible to expand healthcare coverage and reduce the deficit without the federal mandate.  Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) said “We want to give states as much flexibility as possible, but that flexibility shouldn’t fail to ensure that Americans in every state have access to quality, affordable healthcare.”

Writing in the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen asks “So, how big a deal is this?  It marks a fairly significant departure from the administration’s status quo, but at its root, what we’re seeing is the White House call Republicans’ bluff.  The GOP is convinced it can offer comparable coverage at comparable prices using Republican-friendly policies.  Today, in effect, the president said, ‘Be my guest.’  Why?  Because Obama knows it’ll take more than tort reform and HSAs to make the system work, and he sees a political upside to watching GOP officials scramble to actually craft their own plans, rather than bash his.”

President Obama also made it clear that the federal government is moving forward with healthcare reform. “I am not open to refighting the battles of the past two years or undoing the progress that we have made, but I am willing to work with anyone, governors or members of Congress, to make this law better…and fix what needs fixing,” Obama said.

One Year Later, the Healthcare Battle Continues on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

With Democrats in control of the Senate and Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, a battle royal is shaping up on Capitol Hill over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – aka the healthcare reform law.   The house has already passed a bill that symbolically repeals the law, and each chamber is holding hearings – the Senate Democrats to sing the praises of healthcare reform and the House Republicans to point out what is wrong with it.   Named “Repealing The Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”, the legislation passed the House and is expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate.  “The ‘job killing’ charge is ‘demonstrably ridiculous’:  The GOP’s ‘farcical’ claim that healthcare reform will cause job losses is ‘transparently false,’” according to Steve Benen, writing in a Washington Monthly article.

Although polls show little change in Americans’ understanding of the law, Democrats see the GOP-driven debate as giving them another opportunity to tout the bill’s benefits.  Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research, says that strategy could be particularly effective with women, a critical voting group.  “They’re the healthcare voters and the healthcare decision makers,” she said.  Lake warns that Democrats need to shift the dialogue from how the law impacts the federal budget to stories about real people and how the new law has helped them.  “You win women back by telling them that if their kids have asthma and it’s a pre-existing condition, they won’t be covered anymore,” she said.  The law’s symbolic repeal, according to Lake, is “the first sign of tension that Republicans face of how do you keep the tea party base and still appeal to independent women who were the key swing voters in 2010 and will be again in 2012.”

President Barack Obama suggested in his State of the Union speech that he is open to fixing some parts of the Affordable Care Act.  “President Obama outlined a vision for our nation’s future that includes key American Medical Association priorities, such as lowering healthcare costs through medical liability reform, improvements to the new health reform law and investments in biomedical research,” said AMA president Dr. Cecil Wilson.  Additionally, Wilson is pleased that the president acknowledged that certain improvements should be made, such as eliminating the 1099 filing requirement that requires businesses to file a form with the Internal Revenue Service for every vendor with which they have had at least $600 in transactions.  The president stressed that he will not turn back the clock completely. “What I’m not willing to do…is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition,” he said.

One group that is applauding the symbolic repeal of the healthcare law is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and has pledged to fight government regulations that it believes will challenge American competitiveness.

In the recent “State of American Business”, Chamber president Thomas Donahue said “Workers who have been banking on employer-based coverage when they retire are being told not to count on it. And as premiums rise, thanks in part to the law’s new mandates, many companies are thinking about ending their employer-based plans, and moving workers into government-run exchanges.  By mid-December, HHS had already granted 222 waivers to the law—a revealing acknowledgement that the law is unworkable. And, with key provisions under challenge in the courts by states and others, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.”