The Affordable Care Act has changed how Americans receive their health care. There has been ample debate over the last four years about the ACA and what impact it will have.
Today, we have the chance to look in the review mirror and judge the results rather than the promises. And we have the opportunity to look forward to next year, to see what other changes and surprises may lay ahead for the American people.
It’s no surprise that I, and many of my colleagues on this side of the aisle, were very concerned about what would happen with the rollout of the ACA and healthcare.gov. Unfortunately for the American people, many of those concerns came true. The ACA has helped some Americans but it has hurt many more.
Millions of families lost their doctors and their health care plans. Millions more saw their premiums spike because of new taxes and regulations that provided them with no additional coverage – just more costs. And many workers saw their hours cut as businesses prepare for further mandates.
But worst of all, many Americans have lost trust in our government when it comes to being honest about its health care promises. Many patients fear what may be in store for them next. They’ve lost their health care they have and like, lost their doctors, and are seeing their premiums soar.
And for those that ended up in the government exchanges – the ones that the law was supposed to help – they were subjected to a disastrous rollout of healthcare.gov, delays as paperwork went missing, and the ongoing reality that they may owe thousands of dollars back to the IRS for subsidies they’re not eligible for – not because they did anything wrong, but because the ACA income verification system was not, and still isn’t, working.
But the Administration assures us next year is smooth sailing, right? Unfortunately that answer is no, too. Open Enrollment has been delayed until November 15. Worried that individuals won’t re-enroll, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced that if individuals do not select a new plan by December 15 they will be auto-enrolled in their old plan.
The problem with that, however, is that their premium tax credit, if they get one, will be based on the one they are receiving today – whether accurate or not. If a person wants to accurately know how much of a subsidy they will receive for 2015 they need to go through healthcare.gov again. Yes, the healthcare.gov that was just hacked and carries the risk of putting Americans’ sensitive, personal information at risk.
In plain English, this means that working families will have to wait that much longer or work that much harder to find out how much their health care will cost in 2015. That’s not right for those trying to put together their family budgets right now.
What is also not right is the fact that the ACA’s income verification system is still not working. Despite Secretary Sebelius’ certifying to Congress on January 1, 2014 that a working verification system was in place, the HHS Inspector General found that there were nearly 1 million income inconsistencies on Exchange applications.
Because individuals were able to self attest to their income levels, there was little data before taxpayer subsidies were sent out the door. If the data is wrong, thanks to the horribly poor implementation of the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of thousands of Americans could be hit with a nasty surprise when they do their taxes next year, and could be forced to pay back hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Recently a Treasury Department spokesperson suggested that the ineligible subsidy that someone owes back to taxpayers could be “capped.” But that’s NOT how the law is written. Individuals who are not eligible, either because of improper income data or coverage from another source, must repay the entire amount. The ACA tried to invent a system that would collect that information to prevent improper subsidies. But guess what? It has proven so far to be too complicated and too burdensome.
The Administration has admitted time and time again that their law does not work, delaying one provision after another or exempting special interests and politically-favored friends from the most onerous parts of the law.
While the mandate on local businesses is not being enforced for 2014, the mandate on individuals to buy government-approved health care or pay a tax is. That certainly does not sound fair to me.
And that is why this White House has lost the trust of the American people.
Today’s hearing is an opportunity for CMS and IRS to begin an open and honest conversation with the citizens of this great country about their health care.