Saturday, November 2, 2013

Republicans Give Health Law Room to Stumble

WASHINGTON—Many House Republicans are replacing their push to delay or defund the 2010 federal health law with a new strategy: Hang back and see if problems with the rollout continue or get worse.
It is an abrupt reversal of the activist approach of just weeks ago, when Republicans demanded changes to the law in exchange for funding the government or raising the nation's borrowing limit. Now, they say putting the spotlight on technical flaws of the law's health-insurance exchange may be more effective than a direct attack.
"It's its own worst enemy, and to some degree it is collapsing under its own weight," said Rep. Michael Burgess (R., Texas), who sits on the committee that pressed Health and Human Services SecretaryKathleen Sebelius on Wednesday to explain what is going wrong.
Weeks ago, Democrats had been unified against GOP efforts to delay parts of the law, particularly the requirement that people carry insurance or pay a penalty. But now, as problems in the rollout of the law prompt some Democrats to call for a delay, it is Republicans who say they are giving up on changing anything.
The rocky rollout of the new health care law has deepened, with concern over insurance cancellations and personal privacy adding to the problems of the health care website. And how much is the new law to blame for Obama's record-low approval numbers?
"There are folks in my caucus who say just let the Americans face the pain," said Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.), who voted recently to link government spending to a one-year delay of the health law. Now, he says the fate of the law is out of the hands of Congress. "At this point in time I don't think we can change anything," Mr. Huelskamp said.
Democrats see the approach, which focuses on oversight hearings, as a not-so-veiled attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act. "They hate this law," Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said of GOP lawmakers. "They want it to fail. They're praying for chaos to affirm their suspicions that it's the wrong thing for America. Now, when they criticize the rollout as not being smooth and not being fair to the American people, it rings hollow."

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