The House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on the Affordable Care Act last Wednesday. The focus of the hearing was titled, “Rescuing Americans from the Failed Health Care Law and Advancing Patient-Centered Solutions.” It featured the testimony of long-time universal health care reform opponents, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). They were joined on the panel by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Health Policy Institute as well as Angela Schlaack, a Michigan resident who explained how the ACA protected her family from financial disaster when her husband was diagnosed with cancer.
The hearing was chaired by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) who took over the Committee this year with the retirement of Minnesota Congressman John Kline. Foxx is a strong advocate for the repeal of the ACA. At last week’s Republican Congressional retreat a leaked tape surreptitiously recorded Republican members debating the fate of the ACA, Congresswoman Foxx was recorded as expressing her anger at some of her colleagues who expressed concerns about moving too fast. She was quoted as saying:
“I couldn’t believe a week or so ago that I heard there were people getting weak-kneed on the repeal. “My God! We all ran repealing Obamacare! What is wrong?” She then repeated a saying of her mother, “Sometimes people don’t have enough backbone to do what they’re supposed to do and you need to put a broomstick up their back.”
While the House Committee was moving forward in building a case to repeal the ACA, senators were expressing some desire to slow the process or perhaps reframe the slogan of repeal and replace. Both Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Chair of the Senate HELP Committee and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee expressed a desire to move more slowly than the original January 27 deadline to have a replacement bill ready for a vote.
Alexander said in a committee hearing that, “No one is talking about repealing anything until there is a concrete practical alternative to offer Americans in its place.” Hatch was described by the Washington Post as being open to repealing or “repairing” the law, “I’m saying I’m open to anything. Anything that will improve the system…” Other Republicans have also started to use the term “repair” instead of replace.
The next deadline for the ACA may come soon. It is expected that this month the Trump Administration will make a decision on whether to pursue countering a House of Representatives lawsuit against the Executive Office that seeks to cut off tax credits provided through the ACA exchanges. If they don’t contest the House challenge, it could end the credits if the courts rule for the House members. Or the House could pull back the lawsuit and decide to wait. The courts delayed the case pending a changeover in administrations.