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Q&A: Check on Obamacare

July 1, 2016
Senator Chuck Grassley , Dysart Reporter

Q: How is the Affordable Care Act stacking up to expectations?

A: The sweeping health insurance law, widely known as Obamacare, turned six earlier this year. Recall that the 2,700-page bill was rammed through Congress on a party-line vote. That's a bad way to implement public policy, particularly considering that the law redirects one-fifth of the U.S. economy. Now layered on top of the law are tens of thousands of pages of federal rules and regulations administered by scores of federal departments, agencies and boards. Since signing the bill into law, President Obama has issued dozens of unilateral executive orders and sidestepped congressional intent with regulatory directives. We now know the Affordable Care Act has failed to live up to its name by a country mile. Health care is anything but more affordable for millions of Americans. Costs are soaring and more bad news is on the way. Insurance companies are proposing their rate increases for 2017, seeking up to a 50 percent increase in many areas of the country. The Affordable Care Act centralizes authority within the federal bureaucracy, expanding the scope and reach of the IRS and Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services into the lives of Americans. The law thrusts Obamacare between patients and doctors and into the pocketbooks of just about every American. It has created massive regulatory burdens on employers and massive headaches for consumers. Instead of empowering consumers and tapping free market forces to expand innovation, coverage and competition, the Affordable Care Act expands government-steered health care. More and more people are realizing that Obamacare isn't living up to its promises. Paying high deductibles and sky-high premiums with restricted choices of medical providers sounds more like a bad deal than a good value. Here in Iowa, families scrambled when13 of the 23 co-ops nationwide failed, including the one serving Iowa. Now taxpayers could be on the hook for nearly $1.4 billion to bail out these failed plans. The co-op serving Iowa and Nebraska left 91,500 consumers hanging in the wind. Now we are seeing a lack of competition driving up prices and driving down choice. Americans living in 650 counties across the United States will have only one choice of insurance provider on the federal exchanges next year. More and more people are coming to the conclusion that Obamacare has not made good on its promises.

Q: Why did you introduce the "Small Business Healthcare Relief Act?"

A: One of the many mandates written in the Affordable Care Act is making matters worse. It's the one that has the effect of barring small business owners from reimbursing their employees for the cost of buying health insurance on the individual market. This flawed provision is poised to have a very negative, expensive impact on tens of thousands of Iowans. That's because if small employers continue with the long-used arrangement in which they help employees defray costs of their individual health insurance policies, they will face a hefty new federal fine. Specifically, they would risk paying $100 per day, per employee if they continue this employee benefit. It's one of the most absurd outcomes of the Affordable Care Act. Proponents argued the goal was to expand coverage and get people insured. So, it makes no sense to punish smaller employers who help employees pay for health insurance coverage and other medical costs. In fact, it takes away an employment incentive that provides health care security for workers. Many Iowans have shared their frustrations by phone, letters, emails and face-to-face at my town meetings. The chorus of discontent is growing, especially now as double-digit increases are slated to hit individual insurance policyholders in Iowa. After six years on the books, Obamacare has broken too many promises. That's why I supported the U.S. Senate vote to repeal it. Earlier this year, the President vetoed it. I'll keep working to repeal the law. But in the meantime, I'm working to fix what can be done yet this year. That's why I have introduced a bipartisan bill to stopthe small business penalty. Here's why. It penalizes the small business community for doing the right thing. It doesn't help Main Street employers recruit or retain employees. It doesn't help workers afford health insurance. In fact, they stand to lose a valuable benefit that helps make health insurance more affordable. If their employer reimbursement gets taken away, not everyone would qualify for subsidized health insurance. My bill is simple. It would restore the ability of small business owners to use reimbursement arrangements that helped their workers buy health insurance, as well as pay for other medical costs, for decades. It's a small bite at the apple, but one that would make a big difference for a good number of Iowans.



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