At a hearing in the Republican-controlled U.S. House, witnesses
from conservative groups said overpayments of federal subsidies to
people newly enrolled in Obamacare health plans could reach hundreds
of billions of dollars while jeopardizing the health coverage and
federal tax refunds of subsidy recipients found to owe money.
Republicans are seeking to suspend the subsidies, which form the
basis for the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces, until there
is a system in place to better verify applicant information. About
85 percent of the 8 million people who have enrolled in private
coverage under Obamacare sought subsidies, according to the
The testimony came a week after the administration reported
inconsistent data in the Obamacare health insurance applications of
2.2 million Americans, including 1.2 million with questionable
income data. Officials say most inconsistencies are not errors but
innocuous discrepancies that can be cleared up without a problem.
But critics see a potential for major issues.
"The system (is) essentially unworkable," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
a former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office who
now heads the American Action Forum, a conservative policy
Ryan Ellis, tax policy director at Americans for Tax Reform, a group
led by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, said subsidy overpayments
could wreak havoc during next year's 2014 tax filing season as
preparers and taxpayers come to terms with the effects of
miscalculated insurance subsidies.
"Americans don’t understand what this is going to do to them," Ellis
Republican lawmakers, who are using Obamacare as a major line of
attack for November's midterm elections, took those claims as fresh
evidence that Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) will harm American
families and bloat federal deficits.
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Democrats accused Republicans of using "fake outrage" to push their
goal of repealing Obamacare.
"It sounds to me as though the
testimony of some of the ... witnesses is fear-mongering to make
people afraid," said Representative James McDermott, a Washington
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA and an advocate of
the healthcare law, said the discrepancies were worth examining, but
described the concerns as "much ado about very little."
Charges that ACA subsidies will hurt taxpayers and policyholders
have not become fodder for the election campaign so far. But that
could change in coming months.
“Obamacare has been a failure from start to finish and this is just
the latest example. Highlighting Democrats support for Obamacare
will be a key part of our efforts this fall,” said Andrea Bozek,
spokeswoman for the National Republican Campaign Committee.
(Editing by Caren Bohan and Gunna Dickson)
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