GOP Aims for a Multifaceted Strike on Obamacare

WASHINGTON – With a nasty showdown looming, congressional Republicans are broadening their assault on Obamacare, offering up their own less costly plan as an alternative while insisting the massive healthcare program championed by the White House presents a golden opportunity for scammers.

Implementation of critical aspects of the Affordable Health Care Act are slated to occur on Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal fiscal year, and GOP lawmakers are pulling out all the stops in a last-ditch effort to see that it never happens.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who consistently maintained it would be a mistake for Republicans to initiate a confrontation that could force a shutdown of the federal government, has acquiesced to House conservatives and will now move ahead with a plan to defund the broad healthcare reform program as a part of negotiations over a continuing resolution to fund the entire government.

Several committees controlled by the GOP are now contributing to that defunding effort.

-       The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee released a report asserting that the opportunities for fraud in a significant part of the AHCA dealing with navigators are rampant. Navigators, also known as assisters, are those individuals hired to encourage and facilitate enrollment in health insurance exchanges.

-       The Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus composed of House Republicans, released a competing healthcare measure -- the American Health Care Reform Act -- that would attempt to expand health insurance coverage through tax deductions and a program to provide federal assistance for those with pre-existing conditions.

-       The House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law held a hearing on the anti-trust issues involving Obamacare, with several witnesses maintaining that the ACHA will worsen the already problematic issue of monopolies within the healthcare market place, thus permitting costs to rise.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, said recent GOP efforts are not “designed to improve implementation of the law at all, but rather to bring it down. Worse, this appears to be part of a broader, coordinated campaign by House Republicans to take the unprecedented step of shutting down the federal government unless the Affordable Care Act is completely defunded through the continuing resolution.”

“We will not be complicit in efforts to throw sand in the gears of this program as part of a broader campaign to take away health insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans,” Cummings said.

But Boehner counters that the American public “continues to adamantly oppose the healthcare law,” citing several recent surveys showing disapproval at a record high. With Obamacare’s implementation set to begin in just two weeks, Boehner said, families and small-business owners are right to be concerned.

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to repeal the president’s failed healthcare law,” Boehner said.

On the fraud front, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee contends in its report that the navigator and assister programs lack basic safeguards against fraud and abuse.

The navigator program was created by Obamacare as an outreach program to encourage and facilitate enrollment in health insurance exchanges. Navigators were intended to be funded through the operating funds of state exchanges but several states objected, leading the Obama administration to create a twin program -- the In-Person Assistance Program -- which fulfills the same function but uses federal monies and identifies its representatives as assisters.