Rep. Joe Pitts
I recently chaired a hearing with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to discuss the president’s budget proposal. Of course, the most pressing issue was implementing the president’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
I know that there are some who say that Republicans should accept the law, move on and try to make it better. I don’t agree. First of all, let’s remember just how we got the law in the first place.
In 2009, when the House of Representatives considered health reform, Republican objections were pretty much ignored. The bill shepherded by Nancy Pelosi was so divisive, that even with a strong Democratic majority it barely passed the House. There was pretty much no talk about the importance of bipartisanship and no Republican votes in support. When even the law’s most fervent supporters are expressing their doubts, you know it’s bad.
That bill didn’t become law. Instead, the Senate passed a separate bill that never even moved through the committee process. Democrats stopped working with Republicans, and negotiated with themselves to push the bill through on Christmas Eve.
When the usually liberal state of Massachusetts elected Scott Brown with his promise to fight the bill, the president decided to push the Senate bill through the House without correcting the many flaws in that legislation. Again, not a single Republican voted for that bill.
Now, despite being completely shut out of the process that created the law, some of my Democratic colleagues are calling on us to put all our support behind the implementation. The thing is, the law isn’t at risk of failure because of Republican opposition and it won’t work if we suddenly decided to support it.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), one of the primary authors of the Senate bill, recently told Sec. Sebelius that implementation could be a “train wreck.” When even the law’s most fervent supporters are expressing their doubts, you know it’s bad.
Everywhere I go, I hear from constituents who are either seeing their premiums rise sharply or having trouble finding a job because of the law.
For the hearing this week, I invited Sam Stoltzfus to sit in the audience. Sam owns Keystone Wood Specialties in Lancaster. For forty years his company has been making kitchen cabinets and accessories. For much of that time, he’s provided quality health insurance. He recently wrote me to say that his premiums increased by 25 percent this year. This week, he told me that they could go up 50 percent next year.
When I asked Sec. Sebelius why the President’s budget contained no funding for a provision that was supposed to help small businesses, she ducked my question. The problem is that the law intentionally imposes billions of dollars in new costs on businesses. Even those that already provided insurance, like Sam’s does.
Workers are finding it tough too. Many are seeing their hours cut to part-time or finding only part-time jobs available. I heard from one constituent, a recently retired police officer, who was working four days a week. His employer had to cut him down to three and a half days because of how the law affected their budget.
Just this week, a national movie theater chain with locations in our area announced that some workers would see fewer hours because they are paying so much more to insure their full-time workers. When I asked the Secretary about whether the administration was trying to do anything for these workers, she said that employers had no reason to cut hours due to the law since it wouldn’t be in effect until next year.
What she apparently didn’t know is that government bureaucrats in the administration are using current payrolls and employee hours to determine how the law will affect employers next year.
I know that the president and Sec. Sebelius think the law will help workers in the long-run, but that is blinding them to the fact that it is hurting people right now. The worst part is that there is no reason to think the law will ever work as they intend it to. The president promised in 2008 that every American would save $2,500 a year by the end of his first term. The non-partisan Politifact already declared that as a “promise broken.”