Buried deep in legislation that prevents cuts in payments to doctors treating Medicare patients, is a small tweak to Obamacare that “eliminated a cap on deductibles for small group policies offered inside the law’s health care exchanges as well as outside; the cap was set at $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families.”
A help for small businesses? No doubt. The problem is that it passed the Republican House largely because it was approved by a surprise voice vote with members not aware that the Obamacare fix was in the bill.
There has been little outcry from Obamacare opponents because this isn’t the first “fix” the GOP has supported. And while the leadership is not touting the change, some members might wonder why they handed the Democrats an easy victory.
Fittingly in an era of divided government, now that the change has been made, officials in both parties are once more at odds, each describing it as a victory for their side in a ceaseless political struggle.
Asked if the legislation strengthened the law, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, “I would hope so. I believe that” it does. He added, “So there are changes being made. But the Republicans have to get over if they hate ‘Obamacare’ and are going to repeal it,” he added.
Rory Cooper, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said, “This is another in a series of changes to Obamacare that the House has supported to help save Americans from being harmed by the law, and we’re glad to see the President signed it into law.” Cantor was involved in negotiations on the legislation, which were overseen by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Reid.
While Cooper described the change merely as one of several designed to prevent harm, the episode marks the first time Republicans have agreed to make it easier for anyone to obtain coverage under the law.
According to a list maintained by the office of the House Republican whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, five of the eight previous changes signed by Obama reduced funding; one repealed a minor voucher provision; one jettisoned a section dealing with home care for the elderly; and the other eliminated a tax reporting requirement.
In this case, though, large business organizations that support repeal pressed Republicans to make the change.
“Repealing the annual limitation on deductible would free up an important “lever” that employers need as they struggle to design affordable plans that meet the requirements” of the law, R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote senior lawmakers. He expressed satisfaction with HHS’ waiver, yet added, “a more permanent and predictable solution is critical.”
Democrats said the now-defunct limitation was inserted into the original law in an unsuccessful attempt to win the vote of former Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. She supported the bill in the Senate Finance Committee but opposed it on the Senate floor.
If the change is so good, why didn’t the leadership let the rank and file in on what a great thing they were doing in addition to passing the Doc Fix? Probably because they know it reeks of hypocrisy for the party to so vociferously proclaim their opposition to Obamacare while supporting ways to “fix” the legislation to lessen its negative impact on constituents.
You can’t blame them for doing so, but at the same time, the optics are horrible. The base has made it pretty clear that they want no changes to Obamacare that don’t include repeal — with the exception of the repeal of the individual mandate which would be tantamount to killing Obamacare anyway.
At least the leadership is smart enough not to make a big deal out of passing the tweak. And Democrats are grateful for all the help they can get in lessening the negative impact of Obamacare on the American people.
A few more “tweaks” like this one and the GOP will take part ownership of this monstrosity.