GOP Considers Federal Gov’t Shutdown To Block ACA Implementation
A Republican-sponsored plan to prevent the Affordable Care Act from taking full effect by facilitating a shutdown of the federal government has been gaining support in the Senate and the House, primarily among GOP leaders and members in the two chambers, The Hill reports.
Congress routinely has passed stopgap spending measures -- known as continuing resolutions -- to keep the federal government in operation beyond the end of each fiscal year, often because lawmakers do not finish their appropriations work by the Sept. 30 deadline, according to The Hill. This year, the expiration of federal appropriation laws coincides with the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment for the ACA's insurance exchanges.
Under the plan spearheaded in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Republicans -- including two members of the congressional GOP leadership -- are considering blocking any government funding resolution that includes money for further implementation of the health reform law. Democrats and the White House have described the plan, which Republicans first attempted to implement during President Obama's first term, as a nonstarter (Bolton, The Hill, 7/23).
During an interview on FOX News' "Fox and Friends" on Monday, Lee announced that he has secured the support of "13 or 14" Senate Republicans for the plan. He added that there is "a parallel movement going on in the House" (Easley, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 7/22). More than 60 House Republicans have signed on to a letter -- by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) -- to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pressing him against bringing any bills that provide ACA funding to a vote.
According to The Hill, the new plan places Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in "a tough spot," because the two leaders have downplayed previous discussions within the GOP caucus about shutting down the government (The Hill, 7/23).
During his FOX News interview, Lee asserted, "If Republicans in both [chambers] simply refuse to vote for any continuing resolution that contains further funding for further enforcement of Obamacare, we can stop [the law]. We can stop the individual mandate from going into effect." He noted that the plan has been developed to ensure that certain popular provisions of the ACA, like allowing young adults to remain on their parents' health policies up to age 26, will not be eliminated ("Hill Tube," The Hill, 7/22).
McCain, Democratic Aide Comment on Plan
Meanwhile, some Republicans -- including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- have raised concerns about the political ramifications of the plan to facilitate a government shutdown. During a radio interview on Friday, McCain acknowledged that some of his "Republican colleagues are already saying we won't raise the debt limit unless there's repeal of Obamacare," adding, "I'd love to repeal Obamacare, but I promise you that's not going to happen on the debt limit."
McCain noted, "[M]ost Americans are really tired of those kinds of shenanigans here in Washington."
Meanwhile, Democrats expressed muted concern about the GOP plan. A senior Democratic aide said the debate will "be fun to watch," adding, "For now, we'll just stand back and let them debate this amongst themselves" (The Hill, 7/23).
Republicans Request Premium Rates Data for Health Plans in Federal Exchanges
In related news, a group of seven Republican House and Senate committee leaders on Monday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking her to release premium rate data from insurers that are applying to participate in the ACA exchanges operated by the government, CQ Roll Call reports.
In the letter, the lawmakers cited a report that indicated premium rate data for plans in the 34 federally run exchanges would not be publicly released until September. According to CQ Roll Call, Sebelius made a similar pronouncement during comments to reporters last month.
The lawmakers expressed concern that the timeline would not provide individuals, families and small businesses in the 34 states with enough time to plan for premium changes (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 7/22). They wrote, "Delaying the release of premium information until September will only serve to limit the amount of time individuals and families have to budget for the substantially higher insurance costs many will face" (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/22).
The letter also criticized the "closed doo[r]" negotiations over premiums rates that are being conducted between federal officials and insurers (CQ Roll Call, 7/22). The lawmakers added, "We believe it is essential that [HHS] provide transparent pricing as soon as possible for the millions of Americans who will be impacted by this law" (Howell, "Inside Politics," Washington Times, 7/22).
In addition to premium rate data, the lawmakers requested that HHS provide all filings that the department has received from insurers that want to sell their plans in federal and partnership exchanges. They also asked HHS to explain the methodology used to decide when to negotiate rates, and describe any incentives HHS uses "to motivate insurers to change their rates" (CQ Roll Call, 7/22).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.