House Republicans today blasted the Obama administration's approach to implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and communicating with the public about implementation.
Democrats on the committee, and a hearing witness who supports PPACA, accused the Republicans of trying to achieve with bluster what they could not achieve through the courts or at the polls.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) said at a hearing on the PPACA employer mandate delay that the Obama administration has been giving Congress vague assurances that everything was going well since the law was enacted.
Then, a week ago, right before the Independence Day holiday weekend, a Treasury Department official revealed the delay in implementation of the PPACA provision requiring many large employers to provide health coverage in a blog entry, Roskam said.
The Treasury Department blogger was, "essentially, whispering, 'It's not working,'" Roskam said during the hearing, which was organized by the House Ways and Means health subcommittee and streamed live on the Web. "'Oops! This is a mess.'"
Roskam noted that the Obama administration has suggested that members of the public keep tabs on PPACA implementation by visiting various websites.
"It's ridiculous," Roskam said.
Where's the money?
Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) acknowledged that PPACA implementers might face challenges.
"Things change," Pascrell said. "Things need to be corrected." But "the election is over," he added. "The Supreme Court decision has been rendered."
Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, a Washington and Lee University law professor who represents consumer interests in proceedings at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), said he believes Obama administration officials are not sure whether they can achieve all goals on schedule and are trying to give the actions most likely to help uninsured people get coverage the highest priority.
Jost said that, in addition to helping millions of uninsured people get health coverage, PPACA will strengthen consumer protection regulations, such as rules requiring insurers to sell coverage on a guaranteed-issue—mostly community-rated basis—for the people who have coverage.
"Thus my son, who will have a pre-existing condition for the rest of his life, can rest asured that he—and everyone else with pre-existing conditions—will never be turned down for insurance," Jost said in a written version of his remarks.
Federal administrations have delayed implementation of laws for practical reasons for decades, and "there is little evidence that employers will rush to exist employee coverage" because of the delay, he added.
The members of Congress who have been trying to starve the PPACA implementation teams have no standing to criticize administration delays, Jost said.
If more delays become necessary, "the blame lies entirely with those in Congress who refuse to accept the law of the land and provide adequate resources for ... implementation," Jost said. If you actually care about implementation of the ACA ... take action immediately to appropriate the money needed to get the job done."