A tale of two health laws

Two hearings in the Congress on Wednesday morning about the Obama health law showcased the continuing partisan divide on that issue, as Republicans railed against recent increases in health care premiums and the law in general, while Democrats maintained those reforms are working, and that rate hikes are less than originally anticipated.

“Some of your comments in your opening remarks defy reality,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), an Obama health law opponent told one supporter at a House hearing.

“I’m expecting Toto in the land of Oz,” added Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), as the GOP assailed those who see the health care glass as half full.

In one hearing, supporters of the health law opened by telling lawmakers that despite recently announced premium increases for those who buy their insurance through healthcare.gov, that things are still headed in the right direction under the Affordable Care Act.

“Even after the correction, premiums will still be about 11 percent lower than premiums would have been in the absence of the Affordable Care Act,” said Topher Spiro, with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Democratic lawmakers did their best to buttress those type of arguments, and noted the empty seats in the audience as evidence that the GOP push to overturn the Obama health law isn’t working.

“They’re not getting the political impact they hoped for,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), who jabbed at the GOP over what they would do differently on improving access to health care.

“There still is no substitute, Republican plan,” Cooper said.

But Republicans read notes from people back home who made clear they want something else.

“I’m still looking for the affordable part of health care,” read an email to Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-TN).

At another hearing room, the basic arguments were much the same as two panels of the Energy and Commerce Committee gathered.

At that hearing, a lead investigator for the Government Accountability Office took flak from Democrats over an undercover effort to get fictitious people registered for health insurance and special tax credits.

Democrats denounced the GAO review as a “farce” and “deeply flawed,” arguing no one is going to sign up for health care, get credits and then never use the plan.

“Are there any actual cases of real people who did this?” asked Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO).

“No,” was the answer from Seto Bagdoyan, of the GAO, who still stuck to his findings that there were some flaws in the signup process that could lead to fraud.

For the Republicans, that was just another dose of evidence that the Obama health law is a disaster, a plan that they argue could be collapsing before our eyes.

For Democrats, it’s a big success, and one that the GOP should help to improve, not attack.

One health law. Two very different views.

And no one seems to be budging one inch on it.

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