In Congress, Squaring Off Over Health Care Law

Insurance News Net reports:

“Jan. 05–WASHINGTON — Incoming Republican Rep. Lou Barletta said the House vote next week to repeal the national health care law is intended to send a message to Democrats.

Many new Republicans, like Barletta, campaigned on a promise to do away with the mammoth reforms to the nation’s health care system — a declared success of the Obama White House. The House Republican leadership, which officially takes charge Wednesday, has set next Wednesday as the date to vote on repeal.

“It makes sure that the voice of the people is …immediately heard here in Washington,” Barletta said. “I believe it sends a message to the Democrats that we’re going to come down to Washington to do what the people told us to do.”

The vote is likely to pass in the House, but it is largely symbolic because the U.S. Senate is still controlled by the Democrats.

It’s unclear how much bipartisan support the repeal vote will get. Republicans are hoping some conservative Democrats, like U.S. Rep. Tim Holden , D-17th District, who voted against the law, may support repeal.

But U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz , D-13th District, said the vote is a waste of time and that her constituents don’t want the more popular provisions — such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old — to be thrown out.

“They [House Republicans] know this isn’t going anywhere, but this is what they want to make clear to American people, they want to end these protections,” Schwartz said. “I hear from constituents who have children with pre-existing conditions, they don’t want those protections to go away. [House Republicans] are repealing all those protections without any plan or intention to replace it.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey , D-Pa. said the issue won’t find much support across the state.

“I think over time we’re going to continue to debate this, but at the same time people are going to realize that repeal means turning back the clock on a lot of important protections,” he said. “Just a flat-out repeal won’t have the support of a broad cross-section in Pennsylvania.”

Lehigh Valley’s Republican Congressman Charlie Dent , who said he will support the repeal, said that after the vote, the way forward will be stripping the law of provisions such as a tax on medical devices and requirements that individuals purchase health insurance and that businesses file tax forms for purchases of more than $600.

“The strategy will shift to repealing certain components,” Dent said. “You’ll see many rifle shots at some of the more erroneous provisions.”

Speaking to regional reporters on a conference call Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said opponents of the health care reform law are “flat-out wrong.”

“There’s no question that repeal would be a huge step backward that no one could afford,” she said. Repeal “shifts power back to the insurance companies.”

Sebelius said Americans are just beginning to realize the benefits of the law and cited some of the most noteworthy changes: Children with pre-existing conditions will not be denied coverage; recent college graduates can stay under their parents’ coverage until age 26; senior citizens are seeing the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” close, saving them thousands of dollars; and chronically ill people no longer have a lifetime limit of health coverage.

“The evidence so far suggests that the reforms are working for millions of Americans,” Sebelius said.

She also said the law would save taxpayers $1 trillion over the next decade, although the Congressional Budget Office‘s estimate of savings last year was $143 billion between 2010-2019.

Sebelius said opponents may try to starve the law by not funding it, but its money-saving provisions have to be considered by members of Congress looking to cut spending.

“As the misinformation is dispelled … we’re going to see increased enthusiasm” for the provisions in the law, Sebelius said.

According to HHS, 179,000 small businesses in Pennsylvania could be helped by tax credits included in the law, while 189,000 senior citizens would reap the benefits of a smaller doughnut hole. Additionally, 154,000 Pennsylvanians who retired before becoming eligible for Medicare would be allowed to continue buying their former employer’s health coverage under the law, HHS said.”

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