Obamacare Frustrations May Not Be a Slam Dunk for Republicans

Sixty-eight percent of Americans say that Obamacare will play a role in deciding how they vote in the U.S. House elections this fall, according to a Bankrate.com report. Of those 32% say they are more likely to vote Republican while 26% are more likely to vote Democrat. “Perhaps surprisingly, these results indicate that the messy launch of Obamacare won’t be as detrimental for Democrats or as much of a slam-dunk for Republicans in future elections as some analysts previously suggested,” said Bankrate.com insurance analyst Doug Whiteman.

After the new Congress starts in January 2015, 30% want Congress to repeal Obamacare; 82% want to change the law in some fashion; and Only 12% want to keep the law exactly as it is.

Twice as many Americans reported improved health insurance situations from August 2013 to June 2014. “The fact that more Americans say their health insurance situation has improved, and fewer want to repeal the law than when we last asked in April, signals a positive turning point for the Affordable Care Act. While most Americans don’t see Obamacare as a perfect solution, more are willing to accept it if a few changes are made,” said Whiteman. For more information, visithttp://www.bankrate.com/finance/insurance/health-insurance-poll-0614.aspx

Republicans Call for Review of HHS Fundraising

Senate Republicans are calling on the HHS Inspector General to investigate fundraising activities by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The following is a summary of a letter to the HHS Inspector General from Senate Ranking Members Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) of the Senate Finance Committee, and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:

Major news outlets have reported that Sebelius is raising money from the private sector, including from health care executives, for use by a private entity, Enroll America, which is helping implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). These activities call into question whether appropriations and ethics laws are being followed.

Administration officials told The New York Times that private fundraising was necessary because Congress refused to provide enough money to carry out the health care law. An HHS spokesman said the Secretary’s efforts included meetings, calls, and events with 18 categories of people and organizations since January, including retail pharmacies, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals

Administration officials told The New York Times that the Secretary secured $10 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a pledge of about $500,000 from H&R Block, which plans to help people apply for tax credits under the new law.

The Hill reported that a nonprofit promoting President Obama’s healthcare law has created an air of expectation that insurers will contribute to the group, according to an insurance industry official. Enroll America has come to feel like just an arm of the administration, said one official who works closely with insurers.

The Hill also reported that current and former administration officials have taken on leadership and fundraising roles for Enroll America. President Obama himself made a vague, but personal appeal for a close partnership with insurers, which some in the industry saw as a precursor to direct fundraising pitches. If true, these statements from the administration and the news reports would suggest the following:

· The Secretary has asked for financial support from at least two private entities.
· The Secretary has asked entities she regulates to support private efforts.
· The solicitation has been broad and has been taking place for months.
· These solicitations were in response to Congress’s refusal to appropriate more funds for PPACA implementation.
· The Secretary and other government officials may be attempting to raise funds for Enroll America from health insurers.
· There are close ties and substantial coordination between the Administration and Enroll America.

Republicans Introduce Pre-Existing Plan Bill

House Republicans introduced a bill to shift additional funds into the Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan to open it to new enrollees and extend funding through the end of the year. The Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan was supposed to cover 375,000 enrollees. However, with only 110,000 enrolled, the administration was forced to close the program because of a lack of funds. The Helping Sick Americans Now Act would move funds from the Public Health and Prevention Fund into PCIP to keep the program open through the end of the calendar year.

H.R. 1549, The Helping Sick Americans Now Act, was introduced by Representatives Joe Pitts (PA) chairman of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, Michael Burgess, M.D. (TX), vice chair of the Health Subcommittee, and Ann Wagner (MO). Rep. Joe Pitts said, “Five weeks ago, House Republicans asked the President to move additional funds into the Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan…Since the White House hasn’t answered our appeal, we’ve introduced legislation that would ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can once again have access to this program. “The Administration’s lack of a willingness to set sensible priorities has required us to introduce this legislation to provide immediate coverage for these individuals and ensure no American with a difficult medical diagnosis is told “tough luck” because the President failed to act,” said Rep. Burgess. “The legislation that will help dismantle the Public Health Slush Fund and help those with preexisting conditions get access to care through the high risk pools,” said Rep. Ann Wagner.

On April 3, the Health Subcommittee held a hearing to investigate the suspension of enrollment in PCIP. Susan Zurface, a 42-year old mother of two, testified about her struggle with leukemia and how being barred from the program has made it virtually impossible to get affordable health coverage. Testimony and video of this hearing is available here: http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/protecting-america%E2%80%99s-sick-and-chronically-ill

Last Updated 08/10/2022

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