‘Polarized Congress’ Could Mean No Changes To Affordable Care Act
Business lobbyists, health care providers and other stakeholders are pushing for changes to the Affordable Care Act, but partisan gridlock in Congress could mean the law will be fully implemented in 2014 without any alterations, theÂ New York TimesÂ reports.Â
Background on Proposed Changes
Lobbying groups have suggested a long list of possible changes to the ACA. For example, Families USA is seeking more funding for health insurance exchange "navigators" that will help uninsured individuals select coverage. The group also wants to change the way household income is calculated to include workers' total family costs.Â
Meanwhile, health insurers are asking that lawmakers repeal a new insurer tax expected to raise more than $100 billion over a decade.Â
Employers for Flexibility in Health Care -- a coalition of retailers, restaurants, temporary staffing agencies and Washington trade associations -- has pushed to increase the minimum working hours defining a full-time worker from 30 hours each week to 40 hours. The coalition also wants a grace period for compliance.
According to theÂ Times, it is highly unusual that large and influential laws are passed without any changes in the subsequent months and years. For example, changes were made to Â the Children's Health Insurance Program Â in the first month after the law creating the program was passed in 1997.Â
However, lobbyists are finding that a "polarized Congress" means making changes to the ACA "has become all but impossible," theÂ TimesÂ reports. According to theÂ Times, many Republicans are resisting making alterations, preferring instead to repeal the entire ACA. Meanwhile, many Democrats are concerned about addressing a "politically charged law" ahead of an election year, theÂ TimesÂ reports.Â
As a result, there have been few attempts to make changes to the ACA. The last congressional action on the ACA was a HouseÂ voteÂ earlier this month to repeal it (Weisman/Pear,Â New York Times, 5/26).
GOP Anticipates ACA Failure
In related news, Republicans are hoping that implementation of the ACA "turns into such a disaster" that the GOP gains control of Congress and can repeal the law,Â AP/Modern HealthcareÂ reports.Â
House Republicans are planning an election narrative that focuses on repealing the ACA and linking the law to a recent IRSÂ scandalÂ in which the agency admitted that it had placed extra scrutiny on tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has predicted that the ACA will be the biggest election issue of 2014 and that it will be an "albatross" for Democrats seeking re-election. McConnell said, "This thing can't possibly work," adding, "It will be a huge disaster in 2014."
However, both Democratic and Republican analysts are skeptical that the law will play out the way that GOP lawmakers are envisioning.
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, called the Republican narrative "mythology." Meanwhile, GOP pollster Bill McInturff said that Republican lawmakers' prediction likely will not mirror reality but noted that all major laws have faced problems during launch. "Life experience says to me there is not going to be some simple, clear narrative that is sitting here today," he said (Alonso-Zaldivar,Â AP/Modern Healthcare, 5/27).
Majority of U.S. Residents Oppose ACA
Meanwhile, 54% of U.S. residents oppose the ACA and 43% support the law, according to a CNN/ORC InternationalÂ surveyÂ released Monday,Â The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. The statistics are nearly unchanged since a similar poll in 2010 (Mali, "Healthwatch,"Â The Hill, 5/27).
Researchers surveyed 923 adults on May 17 and May 18 -- days after the House voted for the 37th time to repeal the health reform law (Robillard,Â Politico, 5/27).
The poll found that nearly 75% of Democrats said they support the law, while just 16% of Republicans favor it ("Healthwatch,"Â The Hill, 5/27).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.