Democrats Question White House Officials on ACA Implementation
On Thursday, White House officials met with Senate Democrats to discuss their concerns about how the Obama administration is implementing the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reports.
Senate Democrats' Concerns
During the lunch meeting, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough fielded questions from senators on various topics, including family dental coverage, premium rate increases and educational outreach, particularly to small business owners. According to the Times, Democrats in both chambers are concerned that any mishandling of the law's implementation could jeopardize some members' political careers in the upcoming elections.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who is up for re-election in 2014, said, "We are hearing from a lot of small businesses in New Hampshire that do not know how to comply with the law." Specifically, Shaheen said that restaurants with part-time employees are unsure if they should cut back on workers' hours to avoid the law's requirement to provide health coverage to full-time employees.
Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) raised concerns about the administration's failure to require health insurers to offer affordable dental coverage for children. He cited a rule issued by the administration that offers "no guarantee or requirement that families have pediatric dental coverage, and the coverage could be provided in a stand-alone plan with a separate deductible, so that a family with two children might have to pay as much as $1,400 in out-of-pocket costs for dental coverage."
Cardin also called attention to a proposal by Maryland's largest insurer -- CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield -- to raise premiums for certain policies sold through the state's health exchange by as much as 25% on average (Pear, New York Times, 4/25).
Administration Faces Question About Proposed Premium Increases
The Obama administration on Thursday also faced questions from other sources about the ACA's effect on premium increases, CQ HealthBeat reports.
According to CQ HealthBeat, GOP lawmakers "wasted no time" questioning HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield's proposal to increase premiums.
During an appropriations subcommittee hearing, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) noted that CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield's proposed 25% premium increase is an average, which features a range of changes from a slight decrease to as much as a 150% increase for the youngest and healthiest individuals. He said, "Certainly [a] person who is getting that 150% increase is not going to feel that they are getting quality insurance at an affordable price," adding, "How am I going to tell them that the [ACA] was actually good for that 25-year-old healthy person?"
Sebelius said that CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield's proposal is a "starting place" and likely would not be that high. She noted that the plan would undergo a "rigorous review process." She also said that "it appears that Maryland will have more competition ... than they do right now" because of the ACA.
According to CQ HealthBeat, the recent questions about premium increases under the ACA could be a "foreshadowing" of the challenges the administration will face this summer and fall, as full implementation of the law nears (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 4/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.