Senate Democrats Raise Concerns Over Implementation of Obamacare

Friday, 26 Apr 2013 12:26 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Democratic lawmakers are worried about political fallout if the final implementation of Obamacare next year fails to hold down premium costs and only ends up confusing more Americans about what their options are.

According to The New York Times, the Democrats raised concerns directly with administration officials at a recent luncheon meeting with Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff.

Their message? They are beginning to hear from constituents who are confused and worried about how the law will affect them and some lawmakers voiced concerns about programs within Obamacare that aren't being run as planned.

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, told the Times she is "hearing from a lot of small businesses in New Hampshire that do now know how to comply with the law.” She said many are still “trying to figure out whether it would be in their interest to reduce employees’ hours” to avoid the law’s requirement that they cover health insurance premiums for full-time workers.

Shaheen, who is up for re-election next year, said the White House “acknowledged that these are real concerns, and that we’ve got to do more to address them.”

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on healthcare, also voiced his concerns, telling the Times: “I am greatly disappointed —and beyond upset — that the administration chose to help pay for the Affordable Care Act in fiscal year 2013 by raiding the Public Health and Prevention Fund.”

Harkin was referring to the White House’s acknowledgement that it had transferred $322 million from the prevention fund to pay for promotion of the new insurance exchanges.

At Congressional hearings this week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius reportedly said the administration needed to tap the fund because Congress had refused to provide money for outreach activities.

In addition, Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin told the Times he is worried about big rate increases being sought by the largest health insurer in his state, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. He said the company is seeking increases of roughly 25 percent for individual policies that will be sold in the state health insurance exchange, and a 15 percent increase for small businesses. The company reportedly said the higher premiums reflect the costs of complying with the new law.

Meanwhile, Congressional leaders in both parties are concerned about the potential cost of healthcare for lawmakers and their staffs if the federal government does not continue to provide subsidies to them for insurance premiums they will be required to purchase from state exchanges.


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