Senate Panel To Probe How Obama Admin. Awards Federal Subsidies
On Thursday, the Senate Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Investigations announced it will launch a probe into the Affordable Care Act's subsidies to help U.S. residents purchase exchange coverage, The Hill reports.
The investigation will examine whether the Obama administration is checking individuals' incomes and citizenship statuses before awarding the subsidies. Subcommittee Chair Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in a statement said, "The administration assured Congress that the eligibility verification process for the exchanges was working, but millions of Americans are now learning that they received overpayments that they have to repay."
In a letter sent to HHS on Wednesday, Portman requested copies of all documents pertaining to federal and state eligibility verification processes. In addition, the letter contained two pages of questions for administration officials, which he claimed have been ignored in the past (Ferris, The Hill, 5/14).
House Budget Chair Says No to Subsidy Extensions
In related news, House Budget Committee Chair Tom Price (R-Ga.) on Thursday said he does not favor a proposal by Senate Republican leaders to temporarily extend subsidies if they are struck down by the Supreme Court, The Hill reports (Sullivan, The Hill, 5/14).
The subsidies are being challenged in the case King v. Burwell. The high court heard oral arguments in the case in March and will release a decision by the end of June. If the court strikes down the federal exchange subsidies, the ruling would eliminate about $28.8 billion in subsidies to 9.3 million individuals in 34 states in 2016, according to an Urban Institute analysis. GOP lawmakers in Congress have proposed various contingency plans that would respond to a ruling striking down the subsidies for federal exchange costumers (California Healthline, 4/22).
Price said he does not think he "would be able to be supportive of continuing the subsidies beyond what the court would allow." Instead, Price advocated for quickly implementing a full GOP-backed ACA replacement.
According to The Hill, Price on Wednesday introduced his Empowering Patients First Act, which he has introduced in previous sessions. The measure would repeal the ACA and replace it with age-adjusted, refundable tax credits to help U.S. resident purchase coverage. In addition, the measure would provide grants for high-risk insurance pools as coverage options for individuals with pre-existing conditions (Sullivan, The Hill, 5/14).
GOP Panel Working on ACA Repeal Measures
Also in related news, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee are working on measures to repeal the ACA, CQ News reports.
The committee plans to mark up proposals to repeal portions of the law the week of June 1. According to House Ways and Means Health Care Subcommittee Chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the committee is developing measures that could be considered by the full chamber as stand-alone bills or combined into larger measures, such as a budget reconciliation bill.
According to committee members, the measures slated for markup early next month will include:
- A proposal (HR 160) by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) that would repeal the medical device tax; and
- A proposal (HR 1190) by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) that would scrap the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
Brady and others have said they want to be able to act quickly on a reconciliation measure with an ACA repeal or other proposals if the high court strikes down the law's subsidies. He said he does not "think any final decisions on reconciliation will be made until the Supreme Court rules" on the case (Ota, CQ News, 5/14).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.