House Committee to Hold Hearings on First Obamacare Replacement Bills

Lawmaker promises “swift but careful” action

House committees are moving quickly to schedule hearings and draft legislation aimed at dismantling the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), according to an article in the Washington Post.

Next week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee (ECC)—which has a central role in drafting a PPACA replacement—will hold hearings on key policy topics: lowering insurance costs and reforming Medicaid. Legislation sponsored by committee leaders will propose specific reforms in those areas, in what may be considered the first pieces of the GOP health-care replacement plan.

Republican leaders have indicated that they intend to replace the PPACA in a piecemeal manner rather than all at once, and the ECC hearings appear to be focusing on “small-bore” policy issues, the Post reported.

ECC chairman Representative Greg Walden (R-Oregon) said last week in an interview that he would embark on a swift but careful mission to overhaul the PPACA: “We need to work aggressively on the repairs to the individual market, to Obamacare. Some might call that replacement. I call that a rebuild. I call it repair.”

The hearing on Medicaid reforms is likely to avoid the broader debate over whether the program will be converted into a fixed “block grant” to states rather than the existing open-ended entitlement. Rather, the hearing will focus on narrower issues: making sure that only verified U.S. citizens or legal residents receive Medicaid benefits and closing a loophole that allows winners of lottery jackpots to claim Medicaid benefits, as well as a loophole that allows married couples to shield assets by purchasing an annuity for one spouse to qualify for Medicaid.

Democrats have made it clear that they are skeptical that GOP lawmakers will be able to come up with a replacement for the PPACA that better addresses coverage and affordability, and they have shown no signs of agreement with Republicans on any of the significant policy issues, the Post noted.

Source: Washington Post; January 24, 2017.