GOP Questions Math Of HHS’ Premium Hike Estimates; Confusion Over Abortion Issue Plays Role In Implementation
Senate Republican leaders are questioning an estimate by the Department of Health and Human Services that the effect of the new health law on insurance premiums will likely be less than 1 percent, The Hill reports. The figure was recently touted by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "On Thursday, some well-placed Senate Republicans asked Sebelius to reveal how she crunched that figure. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Finance Committee, and Mike Enzi (Wyo.), senior Republican on the HELP Committee, worry that HHS has low-balled the estimate on premium hikes in order to sell the Democrats' health reform law." They've asked for a response by Aug. 6 (Lillis, 7/22).
CongressDaily: Abortion has remained a divider in the implementation of health reform. "As last week's skirmish over abortion coverage in state high-risk pools made clear, some sort of legislative fix might be required as confusion remains over exactly what provisions the president's March 24 executive order applies to. The order only explicitly prohibits federal dollars from being used in state insurance exchanges and the community health center fund." States were grappling over whether to cover abortion services in federally funded high risk pools, and the Obama administration issued an order last week that the pools weren't to cover the procedure. "Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., was an outspoken opponent of the administration's determination that high-risk pools could not provide any abortion coverage, even if provided by individual or state dollars. Engel said he was considering introducing language this Congress to ensure abortion restrictions are not further strengthened beyond what was passed in the law" (McCarthy, 7/23).
Politico: Catholics United, "a religious social justice group," is spending $500,000 to help reelect a small group of anti-abortion Democrats who ended up supporting health reform and, therefore, incurred the wrath of conservatives. The lawmakers include "Pennsylvania Rep. Kathleen Dahlkemper, Virginia Rep. Thomas Perriello and Ohio Reps. John Boccieri and Steve Driehaus. Those members were already vulnerable before they backed the health care overhaul. But they were thrust into the health care debate's spotlight after cutting a deal with the White House to support the bill in exchange for an executive order clarifying the law's restrictions on federal funding for abortion." Catholic groups were also split on the bill: While Catholics United and the Catholic Health Association supported it, the "U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed the law because of concerns that it would allow some taxpayer-funded coverage of abortion within federal insurance exchanges" (Hunt, 7/22).
The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record/North Jersey.com: Finally, New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. said Thursday that changes to the health law are likely "because we didn't get it right. ... In an interview Thursday, he said it should have included a definitive pilot program to control malpractice lawsuits and done more to control health care costs. 'We should try to do this without dictating procedures, obviously. We're not medics,' he said. He also said including the option of a publicly run insurance plan to compete with private insurers would have reduced costs, too" (Jackson, 7/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.