Obama cau­tions on re­peal­ing health care

GOP: Over­haul ver­sus no cov­er­age

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR. Dave Boyer con­trib­uted to this re­port.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pres­sured the fed­eral health care law’s foes Tues­day to think twice about re­peal­ing the over­haul in the new year, re­leas­ing a re­port that de­fends the six-year-old re­forms as a lifesaver that’s cov­ered mil­lions and ush­ered in a raft of ben­e­fits that will save peo­ple money.

The White House Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Ad­vis­ers said 20 mil­lion more peo­ple have in­sur­ance be­cause of the Af­ford­able Care Act, and the share of Amer­i­cans re­port­ing they de­layed care be­cause of costs has dropped by a third since 2010.

“The re­duc­tion in unin­sur­ance has been wide­spread. You see it in all in­come lev­els,” coun­cil Chair­man Ja­son Fur­man said.

The re­port es­ti­mates that 24,000 deaths are be­ing avoided an­nu­ally — as­sum­ing the na­tion’s ex­pe­ri­ence un­der Oba­macare matches the af­ter­math of sim­i­lar re­forms in Mas­sachusetts — and that peo­ple who get cov­ered through their jobs are spend­ing $3,600 less an­nu­ally on pre­mi­ums com­pared to what they would have paid if rate in­creases of the decade that pre­ceded Oba­macare had con­tin­ued.

It also in­sists that sharp pre­mium in­creases on Oba­macare’s web-based ex­changes in 2017 will amount to a “one-time pric­ing correction” rather than a har­bin­ger of mar­ket in­sta­bil­ity.

Though the 100-page re­port doesn’t wade into GOP plans for re­peal, it fol­lows sev­eral warn­ing shots from hos­pi­tals, ac­tu­ar­ies and other play­ers in the health care in­dus­try who say re­peal­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act with­out an ad­e­quate plan for what comes next could spark a med­i­cal cri­sis.

“I’m hope­ful that, in the years ahead, Congress keeps work­ing in a bi­par­ti­san fash­ion to move us for­ward rather than back­ward in sup­port of the health of our peo­ple,” Pres­i­dent Obama said Tues­day as he signed a bi­par­ti­san med­i­cal-in­no­va­tion bill into law. “These ef­forts build on the work that we’ve done to strengthen our health care sys­tem over the last eight years.”

Aviva Aron-Dine, se­nior coun­selor to the sec­re­tary at the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, said the de­bate over health care re­form is en­ter­ing a “crit­i­cal” phase, so the ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to shift the de­bate from po­lit­i­cal slo­gans “to more of the re­al­ity of how this is im­pact­ing peo­ple’s lives.”

Lead­ing Repub­li­cans say Oba­macare’s im­pact has been neg­a­tive so far, cit­ing ris­ing rates and dwin­dling choices in Oba­macare’s ex­changes, so im­me­di­ate re­lief is nec­es­sary.

“The sta­tus quo is not sus­tain­able,” Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell said this week at a year-end press con­fer­ence. “The no­tion that we could do noth­ing and al­low the cur­rent law to im­plode is un­ac­cept­able.”

The Ken­tucky Repub­li­can said writ­ing a bud­get with fast-track re­peal of Oba­macare pro­vi­sions will be the first piece of busi­ness in Jan­uary, as Repub­li­cans bask in a Novem­ber elec­tion that paired GOP con­trol of Congress with a po­lit­i­cal part­ner in Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

The GOP in­sists it will not “pull the rug out” from the mil­lions who gained tax­payer-sub­si­dized cov­er­age un­der Oba­macare, though they haven’t sketched out their plans, leav­ing the health sec­tor skit­tish.

Hos­pi­tal lob­by­ing groups last week said they stand to lose $165 bil­lion be­tween 2018 and 2026 if they see an in­flux of unin­sured pa­tients af­ter an Oba­macare re­peal.

That anal­y­sis was based on a 2015 GOP re­peal ef­fort that would have gut­ted Oba­macare’s ex­panded cov­er­age pro­vi­sions, but re­stored cer­tain Medi­care and Med­i­caid pay­ments to hos­pi­tals that treat in­di­gent pa­tients.

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