House Takeover Could Bring Greater Oversight of Obamacare Implementation

Published May 31, 2016

The Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, fueled in part by frustration over President Obama’s health care law, could mean the implemention of the overhaul will face expanded oversight in the next Congress.

It remains an open question how effective attempts to repeal the law will be with Democrats holding the White House and a majority in the Senate. Key Republicans acknowledge outright overturning of the bill would be difficult at this point with President Obama holding veto power. Thus early signs show shining light on problems with the law will be a top goal for the new majority.

Heavy Monitoring of Law

Gregory Schneider, head of the consumer driven health care project at the Kansas Policy Institute, predicts expanded oversight of implementation in order to show the law’s negative impacts.

“The GOP takeover of the House will not lead to repeal of Obamacare, but it may lead to a more careful monitoring of what is going on at the Department of Health and Human Services,” Schneider said. “The power to subpoena will give the House the power to investigate spending by HHS and, perhaps, to ensure that certain consumer-driven policies like Health Savings Accounts not be eviscerated by the regulatory rulings which Sebelius might employ under the law.”

Christie Herrera, director of the Health and Human Services Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council, notes many of the key deciding votes for Obama’s law lost their reelection bids, including Democratic Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper (PA), Steve Driehaus (OH), Debbie Halvorson (IL), Mary Jo Kilroy (OH), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Suzanne Kosmas (FL), Betsy Markey (CO), and Carol Shea-Porter (NH).

“The GOP can and should be aggressive with oversight,” Herrera said. “Congress tried to insulate this legislation for fear of political reprisal. Now that the reprisal has come and gone, it’s time for us to find out just how many unintended consequences this law truly has.”

‘Barrage of Oversight’

In a post-election press conference, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) told reporters they should expect exactly that, predicting a “barrage of oversight hearings” on Obama’s law.

“The individual mandate, the employee mandate, the abortion funding, the tangle of outsider/insider councils like the comparative effectiveness board, and the effective nationalization of health care under grants of authority to the Department of Health and Human Services—all that has to go,” Barton said.

Ads Could Undergo Scrutiny

One early subject of hearings could be investigations into the use of taxpayer money to fund advertising by HHS promoting Obama’s law to seniors. Republicans such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into the expenditures. But Herrera says this is a minor issue.

“There are so many bad provisions in this legislation,” Herrera said. “The American people are extremely well educated about the dangers of this legislation, and so far they’ve been able to sniff out fact from fiction. They want repeal, defund, delay.”

Sarah McIntosh, Esq. ([email protected]) is a constitutional scholar writing from Lawrence, Kansas.