House Passes Bill Requiring Healthcare Numbers

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Thursday, 16 Jan 2014 05:36 PM

By Newsmax Wires

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The House on Thursday backed a bill that would require the Obama administration to report weekly on how many Americans have signed up for healthcare coverage as Republicans maintain an election-year spotlight on the troubled law.

The vote was 259-154, with 33 Democrats breaking ranks and joining the GOP majority in supporting the legislation. It marked the second time in a week — and certainly not the last — that the House has targeted President Barack Obama's law, with Republicans confident that Americans' unease with the overhaul will produce major GOP wins in the November elections.

Some of the most vulnerable Democrats facing re-election this fall from Arizona, Georgia, New York and Florida voted for the bill. Last week, 67 Democrats bucked the administration and backed a bill to bolt new security requirements on the law.

The bill would require the administration to report weekly on the number of visits to the government healthcare website, the number of Americans who applied and the number of enrollees by ZIP code, as well as other statistics. It stands no chance in the Democratic-led Senate.

The administration has reported monthly on enrollment, announcing last week that 2.2 million signed up through the end of December and nearly 4 million had been deemed eligible for Medicaid.

Those reports are insufficient, Republicans argued.

"We know the president's healthcare law is driving up costs for middle-class families, making it harder for small businesses to hire, and hurting the economy, but there's still a lot we don't know," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, contending that the administration "hasn't provided a clear picture of where enrollment stands."

Rep. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, recalled in a statement that, "remember, this is the administration that knew millions of Americans would receive cancellation notices, but they only acted to allow people to keep their healthcare plans that they had and liked after we forced their hand back a few months ago.

"Perhaps by acting today, we can again force them to do the right thing and share basic information with policymakers and the public about how the law is working or not."

The legislation was introduced by Rep. Lee Terry, R-NE, and cosponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., both of whom sit on the panel.

"This should be easy," Terry said in a statement. "But what we’re talking about here today is basic transparency so we all have the data to assess what’s working and what’s not.

"This bill is a mechanism for accountability so we can get the answers that both Democrats and Republicans and state insurance commissioners and governors need to know in order to understand what’s working and what’s not."

Blackburn, the committee's vice chairman, said in her statement that "none of the information being shared by the administration regarding enrollment means much of anything. We talk about people that enrolled, but we don't know how many people have paid and how many people have completed that process.

"What are the demographics of the individuals that are enrolling?" Blackburn asked. "All of this is information that the individual that is paying for this, the American taxpayer, deserves to know. Who has paid for this insurance?"

But Democrats countered that the Republicans were adding onerous requests and disrupting administration efforts to sign up millions of Americans for healthcare coverage.

"This is just an attempt to pile on so many requirements on the administration," said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who pointed to recent administration reports. He said the data disclosed is consistent with what the government releases monthly on Medicare.

Obama has said his administration is the most transparent in history, and Republicans tossed those words back at him.

"This bill is fundamentally about transparency," said Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., who insisted that the American people have a right to an accurate assessment of the law's data.

The administration opposes the measure, saying it has been providing information on enrollments and the added requirements would force it to hire new staff as government expense.

Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said the measure was "really designed to harass the Health and Human Services" Department.

The goal of the Affordable Care Act is to expand coverage to tens of millions of Americans who lack insurance, to lower healthcare costs, to increase access to preventive services and to eliminate some of the pre-existing condition requirements that insurance companies have used to deny coverage.

The main Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, got off to a calamitous start on Oct. 1, followed quickly by widespread reports of canceled policies and higher premiums.

Republicans who steadfastly opposed the law have led the charge in the House, which voted more than 40 times last year to repeal, replace or undo parts of the law. The GOP campaigned last year on a promise to repeal and replace the law, but the party hasn't offered an alternative.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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