Democratic Senator Sees An ObamaCare “Train Wreck”
Senator Max Baucus had some harsh words for the Administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act:
WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Democratic senator who helped write President Barack Obama’s health care law stunned administration officials Wednesday, saying openly he thinks it’s headed for a “train wreck” because of bumbling implementation.
“I just see a huge train wreck coming down,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told Obama’s health care chief during a routine budget hearing that suddenly turned tense.
Baucus is the first top Democrat to publicly voice fears about the rollout of the new health care law, designed to bring coverage to some 30 million uninsured people through a mix of government programs and tax credits for private insurance. Polls show that Americans remain confused by the complex law, and even many uninsured people are skeptical they will be helped by benefits that start next year.
A six-term veteran, Baucus expects a tough re-election in 2014. He’s still trying to recover from approval ratings that nosedived amid displeasure with the health care law in his home state.
Normally low-key and supportive, Baucus challenged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Wednesday’s hearing.
He said he’s “very concerned” that new health insurance marketplaces for consumers and small businesses will not open on time in every state, and that if they do, they might just flop because residents don’t have the information they need to make choices.
“The administration’s public information campaign on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act deserves a failing grade,” he told Sebelius. “You need to fix this.”
Responding to Baucus, Sebelius pointedly noted that Republicans in Congress last year blocked funding for carrying out the health care law, and she had to resort to raiding other legally available departmental funds.
The administration is asking for $1.5 billion in next year’s budget, and Republicans don’t seem willing to grant that, either.
At one point, as Sebelius tried to answer Baucus’ demand for facts and figures, the senator admonished: “You haven’t given me any data; you just give me concepts, frankly.”
The biggest difficulty the Administration faces, of course, is the fact that last year’s Supreme Court decision gave the state’s the right to opt-out of the PPACA’s Medicaid expansion, a right which many states have afforded themselves in an effort to keep their own budgets in line. Additionally, the law makes the implementation of health care exchanges by the states entirely voluntary (there really was not other viable option), thus requiring the Federal Government to set up exchanges for those states that have opted out. Already, the Administration has granted extensions to those states that have yet to submit a plan to set up extensions, and the deadline is once again fast approaching. From an administrative standpoint, the PPACA is beginning to look like a logistical nightmare that Congress, inevitably and perhaps before the 2016 elections, is going to have to revisit.