|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 10.28.13
Monday, October 28, 2013 â€“
Obamacare Implementation Failures â€“ Website and Rural America
Since the launch of the health care reform lawâ€™s exchanges on October 1, we have seen many reports of significant problems with the lawâ€™s website and, even worse, health insurance plans that are more expensive and/or have significantly higher deductibles. Furthermore, an October 24 piece in Forbes* stated that more Americans (over 500,000 individuals) in 3 States have had their insurance policies cancelled than have â€śfiledâ€ť applications (476,000 applications) in all 50 States.
This is all very troubling, and has led to increasingly frequent calls for delays of or changes to the lawâ€“ even among people like Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).
Americans are seeking answers as to who in the federal government was aware of technical issues, when these issues came to light, who made the decision to delay items like the lawâ€™s Spanish language platform, etc. I hope that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will have the answers to these important questions and others during the times that she testifies before Congress.
Didnâ€™t Know or Didnâ€™t Disclose?
On Thursday, October 24, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing seeking to find out what has been happening with Obamacareâ€™s implementation. Several of the top contractors working on the health care lawâ€™s website testified at this hearing.
The contractors told us that HHS was responsible for comprehensive, â€śend-to-endâ€ť testing of the system before it went live. Witnesses said that the federal government didnâ€™t conduct that final testing until just two weeks before the October 1 launch. According to CNN,** Andrew Slavitt of Optum/QSSI testified that â€śThe system didnâ€™t receive adequate end-to-end testing.â€ť Cheryl Campbell of CGI Federal told us of a last minute change by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that prevented people from checking out Obamacare before having made a final decision as to what plan is right for their family. Although Ms. Campbell said she was never given a reason for this last minute change, it appeared to me to be a political decision so that the American people wouldnâ€™t get sticker shock when they saw how much Obamacare will actually cost them.
Is it really that so many of these issues werenâ€™t known, or is it instead that they werenâ€™t disclosed? I fear it is the latter, but am hopeful that the Administration will provide some clarity on this and the many other questions that remain unanswered.
New York Times: â€śHealth Care Law Fails to Lower Prices for Rural Areasâ€ť
A recent story in the New York Times*** highlights a major concern I share with many others from rural areas â€“ that â€śâ€¦evidence is emerging that one of the programâ€™s loftiest goals â€” to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low â€” is falling short for many rural Americans.â€ť
In this story, Wyomingâ€™s insurance commissioner Tom Hirsig said, â€śI think the problem was that the Affordable Care Act was designed for where the majority of the people live, in the big cities where thereâ€™s a lot of competition among health care providers.â€ť
Our neighbor West Virginia is mentioned in this story as one of those States suffering from lack of competition. "It is also difficult to attract new insurers to areas where the population has health problems," the authors wrote. "Only one carrier, Highmark Blue Cross, is offering coverage in West Virginia, which has high rates of obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes."
Here in Southwest Virginia, many localities will have severely limited competition. Nine localities will have no competition in at least one of the two categories, with only one insurance company in either the Individual and/or SHOP (small business) exchanges. Those localities are Bland, Bristol, Buchanan, Carroll, Grayson, Lee, Scott, Tazewell, and Wythe.
No Republicans voted for Obamacare. At the time, then-Ninth District Representative Rick Boucher voted no, saying of Obamacare â€śâ€¦ Because of massive funding reductions for Medicare, it would adversely affect the quality of care received by Southwest Virginia senior citizens. It would result in health insurance premium increases for those who have insurance. It contains unacceptable special benefits for some states at the expense of the others. It does not correct the unwarranted disparities in Medicare reimbursements that penalize rural areas. â€¦â€ť
While he and I disagreed on many issues, on this one, we agreed. Itâ€™s a shame more rural Democrats didnâ€™t have the same vision.
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office by email, please visit my website at