WASHINGTON—Conservatives in Congress predictably reacted with skepticism to President Barack Obama’s latest executive tweak to his problem-plagued healthcare law.
The president attempted on Thursday to stem the tide of negative press surrounding the millions of individuals losing their insurance by suspending for one year the enforcement of the element of the law that led to those cancellations. Obama sold it as giving Americans upset at losing their plans another year on their current coverage.
House Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise likened Obama’s move to “a person who burned down your house, later showing up with an empty bucket, and talking about how inadequate your house was before the fire.”
Some conservative lawmakers predict that the president’s latest effort is designed to place the blame on insurance companies if individuals continue to find Obamacare troublesome heading into the 2014 campaign season.
“This is clearly a political fig leaf offering cover to his vulnerable Democrat allies in the House and Senate,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.
Republican lawmakers also used Obama’s change to renew their call for Obamacare to be repealed since the law is unworkable and unsustainable.
“For months the president has enacted myriad modifications, repeals, and delays to his own law, and not a single one solves the problem,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. “We need a permanent solution—not another temporary, political fix—that ensures Americans will be able to keep their plans, their coverage, and their doctors.”
The president’s announcement likely was timed to preempt a House vote scheduled on Friday that allows millions of people retain the insurance they have lost under the new law. The White House opposes this one-page bill, primarily because it allows insurance companies to continue to sell these polices to new customers. The White House fix is designed to apply only to current customers. But Democrats have been hinting at supporting the Republican bill in the House, and the Obama administration devised its change to try to stem the tide of Democratic defections.
Questioning the legality of Obama’s effort to change the law while bypassing Congress, House Speaker John Boehner said the House would go on with their vote.
“I am highly skeptical that they can do this administratively,” Boehner said.
Beyond the problem of the cancellations, Obamacare is suffering what McMorris Rodgers called “astoundingly low enrollment numbers.” Just 26,794 Americans signed up for private health plans through Obamacare’s federal marketplace during October. That’s well short of the administration’s projection of about 500,000 private-insurance enrollments during the first month.
“More people drove through my local Sonic in Oklahoma City today at lunch than have signed up for Obamacare in Oklahoma since Oct 1,” said Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla.