GOP stays on offense on health law 

Posted: 9:50 pm Monday, November 18th, 2013

By Jamie Dupree

As lawmakers in the Congress – and average Americans – get ready to focus on Thanksgiving in coming days, Republicans are still pressing their case against the Obama health law, holding another hearing on Tuesday about security issues and readying plans to take their arguments on the road in coming weeks.

On Tuesday, the official responsible for development of healthcare.gov, Henry Chao, will be before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the second time in six days he has appeared before the Congress on the issue.

If his testimony is anything like last week’s, expect Chao not to give much ground to Republicans, as they prepare to press him on why he didn’t tell Congress about red flags that had been raised inside the Obama Administration about troubles at healthcare.gov during its development.

“That is not what I said,” an aggravated Chao said at one point in last week’s hearing, refusing to let GOP lawmakers put words in his mouth as to what he was thinking in the weeks before healthcare.gov went live on October 1.

“I say it’s taken out of context,” Chao said to another Republican, sparring over the meaning of some internal documents on the troubles with healthcare.gov.

At one point, Chao volunteered that he had told his sister to sign up for insurance.

“Did she successfully register?” asked Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), sensing an opening in Chao’s testimony.

“I haven’t talked to her lately,” Chao said of his sister, whom he said was unemployed and out of the country.

Last Friday, Republicans released emails that went to Chao back in July, in which lower level officials warned of multiple issues with healthcare.gov – about ten days later, Chao vowed to lawmakers that the website would be working on October 1.

Last week, Chao also surprised some by saying that even more items were still in development for the insurance sign up site.

“We are still building parts of the system to calculate payment, to collect the enrollment data from all of the marketplaces,” Chao said.

“So we can expect more problems in the future,” shot back Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

Meanwhile, the House Oversight and Commerce Committee announced that it would begin “field hearings” away from Capitol Hill this Friday on the issue of the Obama health law, as the GOP made clear it was ready to take this argument on the road – and to the people.

“Sticker shock of increased premiums for health care coverage,” read the title of the hearing from Republicans; it will be held in Gastonia, North Carolina – a state where Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) has been out front in raising questions about the law, a prime example of a Democrat feeling the heat on the law.

The hearings will continue in Gainesville, Georgia on the Monday before Thanksgiving, focusing on the high cost of health care in rural areas under the Obama health law.

Two hearings have already been set for the weeks before Christmas, December 6 in Arizona and December 16 in Dallas, Texas; those hearings will focus on the “if you like it you can keep it” pledge by the President and the navigators who help people sign up for insurance.

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