Morning Action: More Obamacare Exemptions But Not for You
OBAMACARE EXEMPTIONS. Some of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13%‘s staffers are getting Obamacare exemptions:
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of Obamacare’s architects and staunchest supporters, is also the only top congressional leader to exempt some of his staff from having to buy insurance through the law’s new exchanges.
Reid is the exception among the other top congressional leaders. GOP House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have all directed their staffs to join the exchange, their aides said.
In the charged atmosphere surrounding Obamacare, Reid’s decision only gives Republicans more ammo to attack Democrats already suffering politically from the law’s botched rollout.
In September, Reid told reporters, “Let’s stop these really juvenile political games — the one dealing with health care for senators and House members and our staff. We are going to be part of exchanges, that’s what the law says and we’ll be part of that.”
DOCTORS. For many Americans, Obamacare will continue to mean you don’t have access to the doctor of your choice, which is something conservatives predicted long ago:
Timothy Jost, an expert on the health law and a Washington and Lee University law professor, said some people could have a reduced number of choices among doctors or physicians in a new health insurance plan — at least ones who will be in their networks. Insurers can reduce their costs by limiting the number of hospitals or doctors their customers see to just the ones that will provide them the best deal.
In the new exchanges, Jost said, there will likely be at least one plan that includes any specific doctor in a region. He said getting the best physicians on an insurer’s network is about competition among the health plans.
“If you want a plan that includes your doctor, you’ll probably be able to find one,” he said. “It’s about getting people choice. It’s choice and competition, it’s what Republicans have been talking about forever.”
YOUNG INVINCIBLES. The Obama administration is struggling to get the young, healthy Americans it needs to sign up to survive:
Preliminary figures suggest the Obama administration is falling far short of its goal of signing up the young, healthy and uninsured for ObamaCare.
It’s a problem that could undermine the rollout of the law even more than the glitch-ridden website.
Experts say the health care program needs 40 percent of all enrollees to be between 18 and 34 years old — a prized demographic known in the industry as the “young invincibles.” They are considered young, healthy and relatively cheap to care for and are necessary to subsidize older and more expensive enrollees.
While the administration isn’t releasing numbers, of the six states that are keeping score, only 28 percent fits into the young and healthy demographic.
BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS. Conservatives have raised concerns about the budget deal being hashed out by the House-Senate conference committee (sub. req’d):
A budget deal being negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee is stirring concerns from congressional conservatives, including some who say they will oppose a plan that follows the framework that has been described by people close to the talks.
“Most conservatives agree with me: pass the sequester and go home,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said Tuesday, reflecting concerns by some Republicans that spending levels may be raised and that cuts in entitlement programs are not on the table.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said a deal is unlikely to get his support “unless we’re going to look at Social Security and Medicare.”
Huelskamp favors preserving the overall sequester spending level, which is set at $967 billion in the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
Huelskamp said he also opposes replacing any of the sequester with user fee increases, a plan that has been discussed privately but which he and other conservative groups liken to a tax hike. “I consider that a tax increase,” he said. People will “have to pay more” if user fees are raised. “That’s more out of their pockets. I think every American would see it that way.”
The Heritage Foundation last week denounced raising user fees as part of a budget deal, calling it a “disguised tax increase.”
“Raising these fees to cover the cost of providing services is one thing,” Romina Boccia, a fellow at the conservative think tank, wrote. “Increasing them to pay for more spending is just another Washington gimmick. Using gimmicks like this one to get around necessary spending reductions is a destructive habit that has helped fuel the now $17.2 trillion national debt.”
OBAMA IN DENIAL. President Obama and his administration are trying to divert attention away from the botched Obamacare website (sub. req’d):
President Barack Obama renewed his administration’s effort to educate the American public about the merits of his signature health care law at a White House event Tuesday, just days after officials announced that they met their goal for improving the problem-plagued federal exchange website by the end of November.
But Republicans have not shown any intention of easing their scrutiny of the law’s rocky rollout and are pushing forward with four separate House hearings targeting the law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) on Wednesday alone.
Obama used his remarks to tout some of the benefits of the 2010 overhaul that have already taken effect and criticize opponents for their continued efforts to do away with the law. He urged supporters not to be discouraged with the initial problems with the federal website and asked for their help in spreading the word about the law’s protections.
PATENT DEAL. The patent bill, which has support from the White House, is on track for passage, though some have concerns that the bill would have “unintended consequences on legitimate patent holders.” (sub. req’d):
House Republicans expect to pass bipartisan legislation this week that would overhaul the patent litigation system, despite late objections from some lawmakers, conservative advocacy groups and others that the measure is being rushed through the legislative process and does more harm than good.
“We’re whipping it now,” said Lamar Smith, R-Texas, a former House Judiciary Committee chairman who played a central role in writing a 2011 patent law update. “Everything’s always a problem around here, but yes, I think it will pass.”
Ryan Triplette, a Republican lobbyist with the Franklin Square Group who has assisted the House GOP leadership’s efforts to pass the measure, said she and other supporters “don’t think there will be a problem.”