Murphy: Affordable Care Act not yet ready for prime time
Congressman Tim Murphy talks about the details of the Affordable Care Act and what changes residents can expect to see at a town hall meeting on Wednesday, August 28 at Washington City Hall.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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Congressman Tim Murphy talks about the details of the Affordable Care Act and what changes residents can expect to see at a town hall meeting Wednesday at Washington City Hall. Murphy stated he is against the act and noted many of the details of the act are still undetermined.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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About 10 minutes into an update on the Affordable Care Act before 30 people in city council chambers Wednesday evening, Congressman Tim Murphy showed a slide for the website HealthCare.gov.
The U.S. government website is designed for individuals, families and small businesses to get information about ways they can obtain affordable health care coverage under the new law.
The site includes a note that plan and cost information is coming Oct. 1.
At the outset of his 45-minute presentation to Mayor Brenda Davis and members of city council and residents and business owners, Murphy, who was invited by councilman Joe Manning to provide the update, is chairman of oversight and investigation on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He also sits on the health and environment and economy subcommittees. He noted that a lot of information on ACA will be coming in the next month.
“It will almost be a daily rollout from now until Oct. 1” and beyond, he said.
Murphy, a Republican from Upper St. Clair, who told the group that he doesn’t favor the law, spent most of the evening outlining what the Affordable Care Act will mean for everyone from low-income families to small business owners. He said he plans to introduce legislation to de-fund the plan, and also noted that others, including some trade unions, are also wary of its implications and costs.
In March 2010, President Obama signed comprehensive health reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, into law. The law, which requires U.S. citizens and legal residents to have health insurance, created state-based American Health Benefit Exchanges through which people can purchase coverage.
The ACA aims to extend health insurance coverage to about 32 million uninsured Americans by expanding both private and public insurance.
Effective Jan. 1, employers will be required to cover their workers with health insurance or pay penalties, with exceptions for small employers.
The act will also provide tax credits to certain small businesses that cover specified costs of health insurance for their employees.
While all U.S. citizens and legal residents are required to have qualifying insurance, those without coverage pay a tax penalty of the greater of $695 per year up to a maximum of three times that amount per family or 2.5 percent of household income.
“The government can’t make you buy it, but it can tax you if you don’t,” Murphy said.
While the new coverage options are to debut Oct. 1, with new state exchanges to offer the policies, Murphy noted that no details are yet available on the exchanges. The Obama administration recently announced a two-week delay for signing contracts with new plans until mid-September.
The government also reduced the amount of training time for “navigators,” those who will sell the insurance, but Murphy said the reduction is moot, “because they don’t have a product yet.”
While people won’t be able to explore insurance options for another month, Murphy said pricing will depend on age and gender. He predicted that Pennsylvania’s health insurance costs will rise.
While Murphy said he agrees that everyone should be able to purchase health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions, he said he disagrees with several aspects of the act.
One of those is a plan to have the Internal Revenue Service operate a “data hub” for all health care information provided by employers and individuals.
“I’m concerned about the IRS’s ability to hold onto the data,” he said, adding that when the hub’s integrity was tested, it was found that people were able to hack into its files.
He also noted that the IRS has said it is unable to verify eligibility to purchase policies in 16 states.
The sheer scope and size of the act can also be daunting, according to Murphy.
“There are 115 boards, panels and commissions” involved with implementing the law, he said.
Earlier, he noted that those exempt from the ACA include the president, vice president, political appointees and federal workers.
Congressmen and their staffs will be required to follow the health care act.
During a brief question and answer period, Murphy was asked why the act will levy heavy fines on so-called “cadillac” health plans.
Murphy said employers are being fined for deciding to offer the best health care for their workers.
Earlier, he noted that some trade unions such as the Teamsters, who manage health care plans for their members, but receive payment for the plans from multiple employers, worry that the new law could erode the 40-hour work week.
He acknowledged that some employers could opt to employ more people working less than 30 hours per week to avoid paying for insurance.
“Even by January 1, we’re not ready,” Murphy concluded. “The truth is, the government isn’t ready.”
Noting that U.S. healthcare now costs $2.5 trillion annually, Murphy said the options for continuing under the current system are either “to raise premiums, provide less coverage or continue to raise the deficit.”
While he’d like to “knock it out altogether or delay it,” Murphy said taking that type of action on the ACA in the Senate will be a daunting task.
“There’s been more than 40 votes in the House, but not a single vote in the Senate.
“I think we’re better off saying we need a better plan.”