While Virginia Republicans are demanding a delay of the Affordable Care Act, the White House moved forward with its plan to open up health insurance exchanges today.
The political fight in Washington over so-called Obamacare has not delayed the rollout of a signature feature of the law: health exchanges where people can compare prices and tailor insurance plans for their needs. Still, Republicans, like Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes, are doing just about all they can to fight its implementation.
“I think when you see something that’s destroying the greatest health care system the world has ever known, when you see something that is going to have the economic consequences, people losing their jobs, premiums going up, that this is, we owe it to the American people to fight to try to change that.”
Forbes says today’s rollout is going to hurt families.
“What we’re seeing with companies across America who are stopping their health care, turning people into these exchanges.”
But Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly says while some employers are dropping coverage, it isn’t the end of the world. "That means their employees are going to have far more choice than they have currently. Smaller companies, 10 or 15 employees, often only have one plan: this is the plan we offer whether it meets your needs or not too bad. Under the exchange, you’re going to have a lot of options where you can try to tailor the plan to your family’s needs.”
In Virginia the exchange will be run by the federal government because the governor and lawmakers in Richmond decided not to run it at the state level. Medicare recipients who are sixty five and older aren’t impacted by the law, though many have received calls and mailings telling them they will be. Others in the state have received calls from insurance brokers who were trying to convince them to sign up at much higher rates before the exchanges were unveiled today.
Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says opponents are trying to undermine the law’s implementation. “So most of the problem for the Affordable Care Act is a lack of information and a major propaganda effort. The people opposed to the Affordable Care Act have spent many times more in pushing their propaganda then have the people trying to defend the act. But I think that may change.”
But Republicans, like Virginia Congressman Rob Wittman, say the law isn’t ready for prime time.
“The best thing to do is to set this aside and discuss the ideas about how do we fix the system. Nobody disagrees that the system is not broken. But how do we fix the system in a way that is less cumbersome than we have right now. There are so many different elements of this, so many unintended consequences that we’re dealing with. It is really troubling and I think the American people feel the same way.
Democrats are starting to recognize parts of the law they want to change - the White House even delayed the law’s mandate on businesses until 20-15. But with no Republicans to negotiate with, they say they can’t tweak the law. Moran says Republicans are correct the law needs to be tweaked, but he says that doesn’t mean it should be scrapped. “You always need refinements, but you generally need to roll it out and see where the kinks are and fix them. And that’s what we need to do over the next two or three years. This can’t be cast in stone tablets.”
Congressman Connolly says the sooner the G-O-P accepts the law the better it will be.
“But sooner or later I hope they will come to the realization that the plan is actually working, that it is offering choices that didn’t exist before and that it’s bringing down the cost curve of health care in America.”
The health insurance exchanges are online at healthcare.gov. Most of the plans won’t start until the New Year.