Lawmakers Debate Obamacare Amid Shutdown

None

National Journal
Sophie Novack
Oct. 3, 2013, 9:44 a.m.

As a gov­ern­ment shut­down con­tin­ues to strain agen­cies across Wash­ing­ton, Rep. Mi­chael Bur­gess says he re­mains res­ol­ute when it comes to his op­pos­i­tion to the Af­ford­able Care Act — and his de­term­in­a­tion to do something about it.

A short-term meas­ure to fund the gov­ern­ment, without lan­guage to ad­dress Obama­care, is a non­starter, he says.

“I would not sup­port it,” the Texas Re­pub­lic­an said at the Na­tion­al Journ­al Count­down to Trans­form­a­tion event Thursday. “I can’t speak for the Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence.”

“There was a pro­ced­ur­al vote yes­ter­day and every­one stuck to party sides,” Bur­gess said. “This was an op­por­tun­ity [to re­open the gov­ern­ment] and it didn’t hap­pen, after 48 hours of the shut­down.”

Bur­gess and Rep. Rosa De­Lauro, D-Conn., offered a kind of point-coun­ter­point on the Af­ford­able Care Act, and the shut­down dom­in­ated much of the con­ver­sa­tion. Yet neither could of­fer a clear way to re­solve dif­fer­ences over the health care law and fund­ing the gov­ern­ment.

While Bur­gess said it is feas­ible the ap­proach will be to con­tin­ue passing sep­ar­ate ap­pro­pri­ations bills “every 45 minutes un­til they pile up and the Sen­ate has to pass something,” the Sen­ate has re­jec­ted that strategy and De­Lauro was highly crit­ic­al of the piece­meal ap­proach.

“Is it con­ceiv­able that this is a way to fund the parts of gov­ern­ment [Re­pub­lic­ans] like, and not fund the parts they don’t like?” she said.

She noted that there has been de­bate over fund­ing parks, vet­er­ans’ pro­grams, and the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health, while Head Start and nu­tri­tion pro­grams have been left out of the mix. “I think it’s tak­ing [Re­pub­lic­ans] down an elect­or­al path that is a dis­aster,” she said.

Bur­gess and De­Lauro’s states are an ex­cel­lent rep­res­ent­a­tion of con­trast­ing ap­proaches to the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Con­necti­c­ut has op­ted to set up its own state-based ex­change and will ex­pand Medi­caid in 2014. The state has em­braced ef­forts to pro­mote the law, with about $6.5 mil­lion to be spent on ads and so-called nav­ig­at­ors to help people en­roll. “The more you edu­cate people, the less fear­ful they are,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to De­Lauro, there are about 300,000 un­in­sured people in Con­necti­c­ut, and the state has had about 400 ap­plic­ants to the mar­ket­place thus far. “People are ex­cited about the fact that for the first time they’ll be able to have in­sur­ance they can af­ford,” she said.

Con­necti­c­ut’s ex­change also has the fourth-highest premi­ums in the U.S., though De­Lauro said they will try to bring the state’s costs down fur­ther and was quick to point out that premi­um costs na­tion­wide are lower than ex­pec­ted.

“The amaz­ing thing is the gov­ern­ment can shut­down, but af­ford­able care is launched,” she said. “I say yes to that!”

The ap­proach to Obama­care in Texas has been dif­fer­ent. The state has de­clined to set up its own ex­change, mean­ing that a fed­er­ally run ex­change will be the de­fault. Medi­caid will not be ex­pan­ded, though the stakes are ar­gu­ably high­er than in Con­necti­c­ut. In a state of about 26 mil­lion people, roughly 25 per­cent of Tex­ans are cur­rently un­in­sured.

“Texas does have a ro­bust safety-net pro­gram,” Bur­gess said. “It re­lies on dis­pro­por­tion­ate-share fund­ing.” He said dis­pro­por­tion­ate-share hos­pit­als, which serve low-in­come res­id­ents, are con­cerned about their fund­ing be­ing used to help pay for the Af­ford­able Care Act. Be­cause Texas is not ex­pand­ing Medi­caid, these hos­pit­als will be without a re­place­ment fund­ing source.

Bur­gess said there is a need for changes in the laws already writ­ten, but he em­phas­ized the reg­u­lat­ory bur­den and the com­pressed timeline for the Af­ford­able Care Act rol­lout as prob­lems with the law.

Both law­makers brought up the rol­lout of Medi­care Part D as evid­ence to sup­port their po­s­i­tion. De­Lauro read a series of head­lines from when the pro­gram first began, to show it too was con­tro­ver­sial when it began. Bur­gess said Obama­care has not fol­lowed the ex­ample of the Medi­care Part D rol­lout, which he says was bet­ter co­ordin­ated.

Both law­makers ac­know­ledged there will be a wait-and-see peri­od to eval­u­ate the law. De­Lauro said there would be glitches, but that of­fi­cials can “work the sys­tem to fig­ure out how to best put it in­to place.” Bur­gess said meas­ur­ing suc­cess would be dif­fer­ent, de­pend­ing on the party.

“There will be a dif­fer­ent threshold de­pend­ing on one’s feel­ing of the law,” he said.

With Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats still far apart on a gov­ern­ment fund­ing meas­ure, law­makers said the shut­down could drag on.

Asked when the gov­ern­ment will re­open, Bur­gess replied, “Later.”

What We're Following See More »
SANDERS UP TEN POINTS
Trump Leads Tightly Packed Group Vying for Second
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

In one of the last surveys before New Hampshirites actually vote, a Monmouth poll has Donald Trump with a big edge on the Republican field. His 30% leads a cluster of rivals in the low-to-mid teens, including John Kasich (14%), Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio (13% each) and Ted Cruz (12%). On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 52%-42%.

Source:
‘PULLING A TRUMP’
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Source:
‘HERMETICALLY SEALED’
Bill Goes on the Offensive Against Bernie
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

“Bill Clinton uncorked an extended attack on … Bernie Sanders on Sunday, harshly criticizing” the senator “and his supporters for what he described as inaccurate and ‘sexist’ attacks on Hillary Clinton. ‘When you’re making a revolution you can’t be too careful with the facts,’ … Clinton said. … The former president … portrayed his wife’s opponent … as hypocritical, ‘hermetically sealed’ and dishonest.”

Source:
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
×