Key Areas Emerge for Congressional Investigations of Obamacare

Published May 31, 2016

As the new Congress arrives in Washington, a new free-market think tank is calling for hearings to investigate President Obama’s health law in a variety of targeted ways.

The American Action Forum, a think tank based in Washington, DC, outlines these possible investigatory hearings in a policy brief targeted at the new leadership on Capitol Hill, where oversight of the law will fall primarily under the purview of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and the subcommittee led by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA).

According to American Action Forum, Upton and Pitts should focus on several areas where oversight concerns have already emerged, including the high-risk insurance pools, employer coverage drop and special exemption waivers, Medicare Advantage plans, long-term care insurance programs, and Insurance exchange subsidies.

Examining Key Issues

The brief recommends investigating the implementation of high-risk insurance pools, which have thus far experienced low enrollment and missed deadlines, issues arising from employers seeking to drop insurance, and the special exemption waivers the administration has issued to exempt some employers from coverage mandated.

The brief also suggests Congress look at the impacts senior citizens face from Medicare Advantage cuts, as well as the impact long-term care insurance program implementation will have on existing plans as well as state Medicaid plans.

Finally, it suggests Congress evaluate the level of preparation the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service has to administer subsides and determine fraud.

Committees Focused on Goal

Grace-Marie Turner, present of the Galen Institute, a non-profit research organization that focuses on health and tax policy, agrees with the need for hearings and investigations by the new Congress of Obama’s health law.

“A number of committees in the House of Representatives are planning hearings to help the American people understand ObamaCare and the tremendous impact it will have on our health sector and economy,” Turner said. “Since Nancy Pelosi said ‘we have to pass the bill to understand what is in it,’ the American people will learn a lot about the impact of the individual mandate, the $500 billion in new taxes, the $500 billion in cuts to Medicare, and the mandate on the states to dramatically expand Medicaid. We also need to have a new budget estimate since it is very clear ObamaCare is going to be much more expensive than originally estimated.”

Turner said it’s important to focus on the key things that Congress should do to investigate the health overhaul law.

“It is the duty of Congress to learn more about the impact the law is going to have,” Turner said. “The White House and congressional Democrats papered over the problems we already are seeing, and the American people need to know the truth.”

Broader Questions Persist

According to Greg Schneider, senior fellow and head of the Consumer-Driven Health Care Project at the Kansas Policy Institute, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should be prepared to answer a host of questions.

“They should also hold hearings regularly asking HHS Secretary Sebelius and other officials to tell the American people what is in the law,” Schneider said. “They should also invite other free market experts to give their take. I agree with the American Action Forum’s proposals but they could go farther.”

Linda Gorman, director of the Colorado-based Independence Institute’s Health Care Policy Center, suggests there are a host of other broader issues that ought to be addressed.

“Of interest for hearings might be whether HHS is improperly threatening those over whom it has regulatory power,” Gorman said. “Other hearings could be held on the fact that the metrics mentioned in the bill for ensuring quality are not sound. The law favors some providers over others with no proof of efficacy. The regulatory excess should be examined. The redefinition of full-time employees will cause a lot of problems for everyone. The privacy implications are huge, and mostly haven’t been discussed.”

“Everything is important. But these areas seem to have been chosen because they have near term implementation dates,” Gorman said. “For states, there are a host of other issues.”

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


Internet Resources:

“Investigating the Affordable Care Act,” The American Action Forum.