Senate Republicans set critical hearing on the ACA

The Senate Finance Committee will examine the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, six years to the month after Democrats passed it without a single Republican vote.

Two government watchdog agencies will testify before the Senate panel during a hearing that chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has billed as an indictment of the ACA. The session comes in the middle of a presidential campaign in which all the Republican candidates regularly denounce the law and promise to repeal it.

“Obamacare's broken promises were forecasted long before the law was implemented, and unfortunately, nearly six years later, many have proven to be true,” said Hatch, who was involved in crafting many amendments to the law and who supported the GOP healthcare reform plan in the 1990s upon which the ACA was based. “Since the health law's burdens and costs on American families and taxpayers show no sign of receding, Congress should look at why this is occurring and chart a better path forward on patient-centered healthcare in the future.”

The scheduled witnesses include the assistant inspector general for evaluation and inspection at HHS' Office of the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office's director of audit services, forensic and investigative service. Those agencies have criticized aspects of the law's federal insurance exchange, saying they found that some consumers obtained subsidized insurance coverage using fake identities.

Hatch said this week's hearing may include discussion of premium costs, tax complications and the failure of a number of not-for-profit health plans established under the law. Those co-op plan failures have been examined exhaustively in previous congressional hearings.

In a recent speech in Milwaukee, President Barack Obama said the ACA was a success because it significantly reduced the number of uninsured Americans and allowed people with pre-existing medical conditions to obtain coverage.

While scathingly critical of the ACA, Republicans have not unified behind any comprehensive plan to replace the law, though House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has promised to craft a plan this year. Both conservative and liberal health policy experts say that while Republicans have been busy scoring political points in blasting the law, they haven't figured out a way to abolish it without leaving millions of people uninsured and disrupting the healthcare industry.

Shannon Muchmore

Shannon Muchmore reports from Washington on health politics and policy. Before joining Modern Healthcare in 2015, she was the health reporter at the Tulsa (Okla.) World. She has a bachelor’s degree in news editorial journalism from Oklahoma State University.

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