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PPACA's popularity scares Republicans, witness says

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Witnesses from employers complained about the effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) on benefits costs at a recent congressional field hearing in Greenfield, Ind. — but a doctor who supports the law says the critics are afraid of the law’s popularity.

The Republican leaders of the House Education & the Workforce health subcommittee organized the hearing to show how PPACA is affecting educational employers and other employers in Indiana

Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., a subcommittee member, was trying to round up support for a bill that would exempt schools from the PPACA employer coverage mandate provision, and the fines to be imposed on employers that fail to comply with the mandate.

“The federal government should not be taxing schools and small businesses to pay for the president’s health care law,” Messer said at the hearing, according to a written version of his testimony posted on the committee website.

The witnesses recruited by the Republican committee members said PPACA is raising their costs.

Nate LaMar, international regional manager at Draper Inc., said his privately held, family-owned company will spend $1,830 this year on Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fees for 500 plan enrollees, and about $75,000 on PPACA transitional reinsurance program fees. The company will probably have to pay the “Cadillac plan” excise tax to be imposed on high-cost benefit plans, LaMar said.

To try to minimize additional plan costs, “Draper is strongly enforcing that its part-time employees’ annual averages cannot exceed 30 hours per week,” he said.

The company will have to file two Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms — Form 1095B and Form 1095C — that provide the name, Social Security number, and date of birth of every employee, and the IRS hasn’t even published the final version of the forms, LaMar said. “Our HR department’s worst fear is that the final versions will be made available on Dec. 15, with a Dec. 31 deadline for submission,” LaMar said.

Dr.  Robert Stone — a medical doctor who supports PPACA but runs a group that supports shifting to an entirely government-run health care system — said Republicans are putting so much energy into attacking PPACA because they are afraid of its success and its popularity.

Health insurance costs were rising rapidly years before PPACA came along, and employers have been cutting part-time workers’ hours to minimize benefits costs for years, Stone said. But now, because Indiana is moving to use PPACA money to expand Medicaid, people with chronic health conditions will get better care, he said.

“This is my family’s experience,” Stone said. “My son, daughter and son-in-law are all covered this year under the exchange. The cost of all three policies is less than what we paid for my son alone last year.”

Stone said there was an elephant in the hearing room that no one was talking about.

“The real fear in this room today is not that the ACA is somehow going to ruin this country,” Stone said. “It’s the fear Mr. Messer has that as the ACA goes forward, as people understand it and are helped by it, they are going to want to go further, not to go back. They don’t want health care taken away from them. The elephant here, the real fear, is that as people come to appreciate the ACA they are going to vote against politicians who are trying to take it away from them.”

See also: On the Third Hand: Two PPACA worlds