As voter anxiety over Obamacare's implementation rises, congressional Republicans are moving to fix portions of the law that led to the cancelation of hundreds of thousands insurance policies nationwide while reaffirming their commitment to repeal the statute and replace it with conservative reforms.
In the Senate, that has meant a reprisal of the Republican health care working group, run by GOP Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming. During the debate over the legislation that in 2010 became the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republicans used this forum to plot political strategy and develop alternative health reform to counter President Obama's. The circumstances are somewhat different this time around, but the working group's mission hasn't changed.
Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon, told the Washington Examiner that he is leading an effort to draft a “framework” for legislation that could replace Obamacare. The senator declined to provide details, but said it would ultimately prove to Americans that Republicans "actually have solutions that will work to help bring down the cost of care, to let people have quality care, to deal with issues like pre-existing conditions.”
“You're not going to see us come down to the Senate floor with a wheelbarrow with a 2,700-page bill in it,” Barrasso said, referring to the Obamacare bill. “That's not the way to solve the health care problems in the country.”
Millions of Americans had their health plans canceled by insurers despite Obama's repeated assurances that Americans who liked their existing plans would be allowed to keep them. Voters are furious and demanding relief as they face the prospect of paying more for coverage that in some cases won't allow them to keep their current doctors.
This is the latest issue with Obamacare that Republicans have tried to address. A bill offered by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., would allow insurance companies to keep offering health plans that don't meet Obamacare standards through 2014. The bill is expected to pass the House later this week, possibly with help from Democrats.
Some conservatives argue that such fixes are akin to helping congressional Democrats strengthen the Affordable Care Act by effectively fixing problems that are fueling voter opposition to the law. But most Republicans on Capitol Hill disagree.
Privately, they note that if the Upton bill became law, fewer Americans would purchase insurance from an Obamacare exchange, depriving those marketplaces of the young and healthy customers they need to finance the law’s expanded coverage guarantees. Additionally, Republicans have been inundated with calls from constituents hurt by the Obamacare rollout, and members feel obligated to provide relief.
The House Republican strategy, a leadership aide said, is to use committee oversight and targeted legislation to “chip away” at the Affordable Care Act. This aide dismissed suggestions that legislation like the Upton's would make Obamacare more palpable to voters. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, outlined his approach “to stop this entire law” Wednesday morning during a private caucus meeting.
“Remember the strategy for stopping Obamacare we laid out to you back in July,” Boehner said, according to a source in the room. “Aggressive, coordinated oversight; targeted legislative strikes aimed at shattering the legislative coalition the president has used to force his law on the nation.
“That plan is being executed as we speak," Boehner said. "But none of it will be effective if we aren’t communicating. If we aren’t telling the stories our constituents are sharing, then we’re letting them down. It means we aren’t doing our best to stop this law.”