Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

Affordable Care Act Under Siege As It Celebrates Its 1st Birthday

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrates its first birthday, the future of the law is still unclear, but its effects have been enormous.  The debate over the law likely created the “tea party” movement.  Last November, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and strengthened their numbers in the Senate.  Potential contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination need only say one word, “Obamacare,” to get a negative reaction from a crowd.  President Obama at times himself has struggled to ensure that his first term isn’t defined solely by this legislation.

Public opinion over the ACA remains divided, despite the efforts of Democrats to showcase how it will provide healthcare insurance to millions of uninsured Americans.  Additionally, most Americans remain confused about what the healthcare overhaul actually accomplishes.  Republicans considering a 2012 presidential race for the most part stand united in their opposition to the legislation.  Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is using his opposition to the law to gain a national following.  “If courts do not do so first, as president, I would support the immediate repeal of Obamacare and replace it with market-based healthcare reforms,” Pawlenty said.  Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is in a different position because he supported a similar law during his tenure.

Representative Steve King (R-IA), the Iowa Congressman who is in the vanguard to repeal the ACA, says that “America will never become the nation it can be if were saddled with Obamacare“, “I have a deep conviction that this is unconstitutional, that this is unsustainable, and I have a duty.  And that doesn’t mean I sit back and wait for the Supreme Court to save America from itself.  It’s my job to step up and lead.”

Taking a difference stance, Carmela Coyle, president and chief executive of the Maryland Hospital Association, said her group strongly supports the reform law and will work to assure that the effort translates into better and cost-effective care.  “We support healthcare reform because hospitals see every day what happens when patients don’t have the healthcare coverage they need and can’t get their care at the right time and in the right setting.  Expanding coverage was necessary, and it was right.  We must ensure that the health coverage now guaranteed to many Marylanders is meaningful coverage.”

What’s the future of the Affordable Care Act? House Republicans, who say the law gives the federal government too much control and doesn’t cut costs, passed a repeal bill after they became the majority in January.  Full repeal is unlikely unless Republicans successfully take control of the Senate and the presidency in the 2012 presidential elections.  The current Democratic-led Senate will not vote to repeal and President Obama would certainly veto a repeal bill.  Democrats argue the law’s reforms will slow the growth of healthcare costs while improving care and reducing the ranks of the uninsured.  Republican efforts to withhold funds to block the law’s implementation will be DOA in the Senate.  That leaves Republicans the option of picking apart the law regulation by regulation, a strategy that could prove more successful.

In the meantime, implementation is underway.  “As we look forward with implementation of the health reform law, the states really become the focus now,” said Jennifer Tolbert, a principal policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation.  “When thinking about the coverage expansions in particular because it is going to be up to the states to implement the expansion of the Medicaid program for lower-income individuals and to create the new health-insurance exchanges that will provide access to private insurance for moderate and middle income individuals.”

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.”

New Illinois Congressman Is Declining Government Healthcare

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

One of Illinois’ newest Congressman – Republican and Tea Party favorite Joe Walsh, who represents the 8th district that consists of Chicago’s far northwest suburbs – has refused to accept the government-sponsored health insurance plan that typically covers lawmakers.  “I don’t think congressmen should get pensions or cushy healthcare plans,” he said.  Walsh’s wife is not thrilled with her husband’s decision; because she has a pre-existing medical condition, she is now forced to hunt for a pricey individual policy.   So far, Representatives Bobby Schilling (R-IL) and Mike Kelly (R-PA) have joined Walsh in turning down congressional healthcare coverage.

Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY) called the Republicans’ bluff, writing a letter to GOP leaders asking that they refuse their federally subsidized coverage.  “If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable care, your members should walk that walk.”  Crowley sent his letter to incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Walsh’s stated legislative goals are repealing President Obama’s healthcare legislation and making major changes to Social Security and Medicare.  Additionally, Walsh believes that reducing the size, scope and power of government is an end in itself.  “An end in itself,” he said.  “I think we were sent to D.C. to cut spending and grow the economy. We have to talk about cutting real programs” – as well as agencies — “like the Department of Energy and Department of Education.”