WASHINGTON (AP) — Problems with the HealthCare.gov exchange enrollment system have given Republicans a new opportunity to attack the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Republicans’ efforts to shut down the government to stop “Obamacare” seem to have had little effect on the rollout of PPACA programs, but, three weeks since the official exchange launch date, HealthCare.gov is still having trouble signing people up for health coverage.
Republicans hope to ride that and other defects they see in the law into the 2014 congressional elections. Four Democratic senators are facing re-election for the first time since they voted for PPACA, and their defeat is critical to GOP aspirations for a Senate majority.
Democrats say that’s just more wishful thinking, if not obsession.
Although PPACA remains divisive, only 29 percent of the public favors complete PPACA repeal, according to a recent Gallup poll. The business-oriented wing of the Republican party wants to move on to other issues. Americans may be growing weary of the health care fight.
“This is the law of the land at this point,” said Michael Weaver, a self-employed photographer from rural southern Illinois who’s been uninsured for about a year. “We need to stop the arguing and move forward to make it work.”
It took him about a week and half, but Weaver kept going back to the HealthCare.gov website until he was able to open an account and apply for a tax credit that will reduce his premiums. He’s not completely finished because he hasn’t selected an insurance plan, but he’s been able to browse options.
Shopping through HealthCare.gov beats providing page after page of personal health information to insurance companies, Weaver said.
Under the new law, insurers have to accept people with health problems. Weaver is in his mid-50s, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but otherwise in good health. He says those common conditions made it hard for him to get coverage before.
Although Weaver seems to have gotten past the major website obstacles, he’s still finding shortcomings. There’s no place to type in his medications and find out what plans cover them. “I wish there was more detail, so you could really figure it out,” he said.
Such a nuanced critique appears to be lost on congressional Republicans.
“#TrainWreck: Skyrocketing Prices, Blank Screens, & Error Messages,” screamed the headline on a press release Friday from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. A House hearing on the “botched Obamacare rollout” is scheduled for this coming week. GOP lawmakers want Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to resign.
“To our Democratic friends: You own ‘Obamacare’ and it’s going to be the political gift that keeps on giving,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
“Irresponsible obsession,” scoffs Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees much of PPACA.
Administration officials, in their most detailed accounting yet of the early rollout, said Saturday that about 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges. But the officials continue to refuse say how many people have enrolled in the insurance markets.