House Republicans have been calling Obama administration officials over for a new round of hearings on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) commercial health insurance programs.
Republicans repeatedly blasted the administration officials over the recent announcement that HealthCare.gov sent customers about 800,000 inaccurate 1095-A coverage information notices.
Republicans also asked about the administration confession in September that the inclusion of 700,000 dental plan members in an enrollment press release had pushed the enrollment total over the 8 million benchmark.
Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., glared at Kevin Counihan, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), today at a PPACA hearing organized by the House Oversight & Government Reform health care subcommittee.
“We demand government transparency,” Cartwright said. “We demand accurate answers, and timely answers.”
Cartwright said that the plan enrollment correction made it look as if officials were trying to make the picture look rosier than it was. He told Counihan to commit to getting colleagues on the committee answers to their questions.
Counihan and Sylvia Matthews Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who appeared at a separate House Energy & Commerce health subcommittee hearing, often responded to questions with carefully worded phrases.
When House Oversight members asked Counihan for information about matters such as the percentage of Americans who are, or were, uninsured, Counihan said he would get back to lawmakers with that information. He refused to provide any estimated numbers.
“I’ve learned with information that it’s important to be precise,” Counihan said.
For a look at some of what else went on at the hearings, read on.
1. Kevin Counihan
Counihan’s agency, CCIIO, runs the PPACA programs that affect the commercial health insurance market. CCIIO is a unit of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which is, in turn, part of HHS.
Counihan repeated earlier HHS estimates that the PPACA exchanges have received private plan selection information for 11.4 million people and will eventually get at least 9.1 million to pay for private plan coverage for 2015.
National health expenditures have been below 4.1 percent for five consecutive years, and those are the lowest rates the country has recorded since 1960, Counihan said.
The percentage of consumers who had access to three or more individual exchange medical plan issuers increased to 90 percent for 2015, from 74 percent for 2014, Counihan said.
Counihan noted that the widely reported 1095-A error simply affected the premium amount for the exchange program benchmark plan cost, the cost of the second lowest cost silver plan in a taxpayer’s county, on the form. “An incorrect form does not mean that a taxpayer’s advance tax credit was calculated incorrectly,” he said.
But Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., slammed CCIIO and CMS for letting consumers auto-renew in exchange coverage, rather than having them return to HealthCare.gov to update eligibility information and compare plan costs. Because so many consumers auto renewed, “you know they’re going to get a surprise a year from now,” when they pay their taxes and learn about unexpected subsidy gaps, Meadows said. (Photo: YouTube)
2. Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Lawmaker attendance at the Counihan hearing may have been light because the House Energy & Commerce health subcommittee had Burwell in for a hearing on the fiscal year 2016 HHS budget at the same time.