They used hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives to
highlight what they say are flaws in the 2010 Affordable Care Act
that go beyond the potentially transitory issues of the website,
HealthCare.gov, and cancellations of several million insurance
policies that did not meet the law's standards.
Repeating predictions they have been making since the law was being
debated in Congress in 2009, Republicans said it would end up
restricting consumers' choices of doctors and would ultimately
saddle families and businesses with higher premiums.
"The Affordable Care Act's fundamental problems can't be fixed with
better marketing. The flaw is not the website. The flaw is the law
itself," said Representative Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways
and Means subcommittee on health.
"Looking forward, the flaws in the law itself may prove to be
getting worse, not better," Brady, a Texas Republican, said during a
Republicans view the problems with Obamacare as a potent weapon
against Democrats in the 2014 congressional elections and are
seeking ways to keep the issue from fading once HealthCare.gov
functions more smoothly.
Scott Gottlieb, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise
Institute, told the Ways and Means subcommittee that he believed
that consumers would be surprised when they learn that many of the
plans available to consumers under Obamacare will restrict their
choices of doctors.
"I fear many consumers who enroll in these plans will find
themselves disappointed by the resulting health plans or worse, get
caught in difficult financial and medical binds," Gottlieb said.
Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, which
advocates for free-market health policies, said new requirements
under the health law would translate into higher premium costs for
both consumers and businesses.
SOME DEMOCRATIC FEARS CALMED
At a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee,
Chairman Darrell Issa said that the problems with the Obamacare
website were evidence the government was incapable of carrying out
big initiatives, such as overhauling the healthcare sector.
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"I believe that in fact we have before us an example of something
that may be too big to swallow, even for the U.S. federal
government," said Issa, a California Republican.
Democrats accused Republicans of scaremongering as a way of
undermining the law, which is aimed at making affordable health care
insurance available to millions of people who have no coverage.
Representative Elijah Cummings, the leading Democrat on Issa's
committee, said popular initiatives such as the Social Security
retirement program and Medicare health program for seniors
demonstrated that the government "is fully capable of overcoming
initial problems with the implementation of programs that help
millions of people in their daily lives."
After intensive outreach to Capitol Hill Democrats in recent weeks,
White House officials have managed to calm some of their fears about
the political fallout from the Obamacare rollout.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said that although some Democrats in
the chamber had expressed support for legislative fixes for
Obamacare, it was unlikely any such legislation would make it to the
Senate floor by the end of this year.
Instead, the aide said, senators would keep an eye on how the
website is performing and whether other problems are arising before
deciding early next year whether legislative changes are needed.
(Reporting by Caren Bohan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting
by Susan Heavey and Richard Cowan; Editing by Fred Barbash and Peter