House Republicans this week will continue their aggressive dissection of Obamacare, with four planned committee oversight hearings that will probe far beyond the troubled healthcare.gov website that the Obama administration says is on the mend.
The Republicans’ strategy of digging deeper in the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act and its impact should come into wider view by year’s end, as news about lingering glitches with the federal online marketplace possibly fades. House committees conducting the latest round of hearings includes Ways and Means, Small Business, Energy and Commerce, and Oversight and Government Reform, which convenes Friday in Apache Junction, Ariz., to explore the issue of canceled health plans.
Indeed, Republicans will examine several potential problems looming for Obamacare that go far beyond the technical problems of the healthcare.gov website.
"Millions of Americans being informed that the healthcare plans they liked are cancelled, despite the president's repeated assurances otherwise ... remain a greater priority than healthcare.gov, though questions about its capabilities and security remain," a House GOP leadership aide told the Washington Examiner.
President Obama and congressional Democrats have focused on fixing healthcare.gov as the key to resuscitating voters’ faith in the health care law and their leadership ahead of the 2014 elections. The administration announced over the Thanksgiving weekend that it met its own Nov. 30 deadline to improve the troubled website.
“We are confident that we've achieved significant improvement in the website and its functionality, as measured by the metrics that we've gone over thus far, and that we will continue to make progress and improvements to the website in the days and weeks ahead,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Monday.
But critics charge that healthcare.gov is far from meeting standards established by the administration and included in the law. Republicans argued for weeks that the problems with Obamacare are broader than the website and that those troubles will become apparent in the months ahead, possibly long after the federal online marketplace might be considered fixed.
Here is a scheduled and listing of the oversight committee hearings set for this week and what portions of Obamacare they plan to delve into:
• House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, on Wednesday will examine issues related to the implementation of Obamacare, including how millions of Americans dealt with having their health plans canceled under the law, contrary to the president’s promise that they would be able to maintain their existing policies if they chose to.
The panel also will explore the costs of insurance premiums being offered on the exchanges, how access to doctors and hospitals are being limited under Obamacare to contain costs and whether the early failings of the website will result in some Americans going without health insurance after Jan. 1. Scheduled witnesses include Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, a Democrat.
• House Small Business Committee, chaired by Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., on Wednesday will examine the effect of Obamacare on smaller employers that will have to provide health insurance to workers or pay a fine. Scheduled witnesses include Ellis Winstanley, CEO of Tradelogic Corp. and a representative of the National Restaurant Association.
• House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., on Wednesday will discuss how seniors who access Medicare Advantage health insurance policies will be affected under Obamacare. Scheduled witnesses include Bob Margolis, CEO of HealthCare Partners and co-chairman of DaVita HealthCare Partners.
• House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Friday will hold a field hearing in Apache Junction, Ariz., to spotlight Obama's “broken promise” and its impact on millions of Americans who buy their own health care plans and had those plans cancelled by their insurers.