Lat­est tweaks lead to GOP calls to start over on health care

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, ag­i­tated by even more tweaks to Oba­macare’s time­line in the com­ing months and years, reis­sued their calls Sun­day to re­place Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care law with new re­forms.

“The best thing we can do now is to scrap it and start over with a step-bystep ap­proach that fo­cuses on lower cost and pa­tient-cen­tered so­lu­tions,” Rep. Michael C. Burgess, Texas Repub­li­can and a physi­cian, said in the weekly Repub­li­can ad­dress.

Mr. Burgess and his GOP col­leagues are tog­gling be­tween long-stand­ing dis­gust with the Af­ford­able Care Act of 2010 and their crit­i­cism of the law’s dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance since Oct. 1, when Web mar­kets tied to the over­haul fal­tered out of the gate.

The glitches have sup­pressed signups on Health­Care.gov, the fed­eral por­tal that serves 36 states, al­though staterun mar­kets have re­ported a Novem­ber surge in en­roll­ment.

Re­al­iz­ing they need to come up with so­lu­tions, too, Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus and GOP law­mak­ers as­serted in re­cent days that Congress should have tried a laun­dry list of other things be­fore Oba­macare — from more trans­par­ent pric­ing on health ser­vices to see if it drives down costs to al­low­ing con­sumers to pur­chase insurance plans across state lines.

“For now, though, we will con­tinue to ask the tough ques­tions, hold the pres­i­dent ac­count­able for his bro­ken prom­ises on this self-in­flicted dis­as­ter,” Mr. Burgess said.

Repub­li­cans par­tic­u­larly are up­set with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion last week to push back the 2014 sign-up pe­riod from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, or af­ter the mid-term elec­tions.

“That means that if premi­ums go through the roof in the first year of Oba­macare, no one will know about it un­til af­ter the elec­tion,” Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, Iowa Repub­li­can, said. “This is clearly a cyn­i­cal po­lit­i­cal move by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to use ex­tra-reg­u­la­tory, by-any-means-nec­es­sary tools to keep this pro­gram afloat and hide key in­for­ma­tion from vot­ers.”

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, also said the new de­lay was made for “purely po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.”

“If Oba­macare is so great, why are Democrats so scared of vot­ers know­ing its con­se­quences?” he asked.

White House press sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney said the time frame was de­layed to give in­sur­ers more time to as­sess the make-up of cus­tomers and set fu­ture premi­ums.

“This gives them more time to as­sess the pool of peo­ple who are get­ting insurance through the mar­ket­places and make de­ci­sions about what rates will look like in the com­ing year,” he said Fri­day.

Crit­ics, in­clud­ing colum­nist Ge­orge F. Will, blasted the move as “bad pol­i­tics” and “silly” on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s part, ar­gu­ing insurance rates will be set well in ad­vance of fall en­roll­ment.

“If this is in­tended to tamp down the fire, it’s ac­tu­ally kerosene,” Mr. Will said on “Fox News Sun­day.”

Ear­lier this year, the White House an­gered GOP law­mak­ers by de­lay­ing the en­force­ment of the em­ployer man­date — which re­quires larger com­pa­nies to pro­vide health cov­er­age for full-time em­ploy­ees or pay fines — from 2014 to 2015, also af­ter the mid-term elec­tions.

Repub­li­cans also de­rided the White House for an­nounc­ing the de­ci­sion in a blog post shortly be­fore the Fourth of July hol­i­day.

In another twist, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said Fri­day that cus­tomers on state-run and fed­er­ally fa­cil­i­tated insurance ex­changes will have eight more days to sign up for health cov­er­age in De­cem­ber and still be cov­ered by Jan. 1.

Cus­tomers can shop and se­lect a plan on an ex­change up through Dec. 23, re­plac­ing a Dec. 15 dead­line, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices. They must make their first pre­mium pay­ment by Dec. 31.

CMS spokes­woman Julie Bataille said the agency re­al­izes that early use of Health­Care.gov has been frus­trat­ing and that CMS wants to give con­sumers “as much time as pos­si­ble” to get cov­ered. She said in­sur­ers have been no­ti­fied of the ad­just­ment.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“The best thing we can do now is to scrap [the Af­ford­able Care Act] and start over with a step-by-step ap­proach that fo­cuses on lower cost and pa­tient-cen­tered so­lu­tions,” Rep. Michael C. Burgess, Texas Repub­li­can and a physi­cian, said in the weekly Repub­li­can ad­dress about the con­tin­ued prob­lems with Oba­macare in gen­eral and the rocky per­for­mance of the Health­Care.gov web­site.

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