(Bloomberg) — Republican lawmakers said hearings on Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination as U.S. Health and Human Services secretary provide a fresh opening to raise questions about President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Obama’s choice of Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to succeed Kathleen Sebelius will “elevate some of the concerns” that Republicans have about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.
See also: Washington on Burwell
After initial stumbles, PPACA beat initial forecasts as the first open enrollment period ended on March 31. About 7.5 million people signed up for private health insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care, Sebelius told a Senate hearing on April 10, hours before her resignation was announced.
Sebelius said she decided to leave after feeling “optimistic” the administration would meet its enrollment goal and recover from a “terribly flawed and terribly difficult” launch of its health-care website last fall. In an interview broadcast today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, she said she wasn’t forced out.
Republican lawmakers said they want details on how many enrollees have paid for their plans, the age composition of the enrollees and how that will influence insurers’ decisions to raise prices next year.
Lawmakers should use Burwell’s confirmation hearings to “figure out first and foremost who actually has benefited from the so-called success of PPACA and its rollout,” Senator Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican who sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The Obama administration is “going to have to have somebody to kind of spin the numbers,” Blackburn said. “And this is something, with Burwell coming from OMB, I think they’re expecting her to be able to do for them.”
Republicans have said that PPACA will be a central theme of their campaign to defend their U.S. House majority and win control of the Democratic-held Senate in the November elections. Democrats have said they’ll defend the law’s provisions, including its ban on denying coverage based on pre- existing medical conditions.
One of the key issues will be whether there will be high costs for individuals to get insured and whether that will drive people away. WellPoint Inc., the biggest commercial insurer in the health law’s exchanges, said last month it may seek “double-digit plus” premium increases for 2015. Many other insurers have declined to comment on next year’s rates.