GOP lawmakers announced Tuesday that they will hold hearings on the administration’s decision to delay the law’s requirement that large employers provide health-care coverage for workers. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) also vowed to hold a House vote this month to delay key elements of the law, commonly known as Obamacare.
The White House and its congressional allies, for their part, are attempting to minimize problems as the law reaches a critical stage. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough spends at least a couple of hours a day working on implementation, regularly reaching out to congressional Democrats to see what questions they need answered to spread the word about the law back home, according to several people involved in the discussions.
The administration is holding a Google hangout Wednesday to promote its enrollment Web site, and by the end of the week, it will announce at least two new White House appointees who will work on Obamacare, including Chris Jennings, President Bill Clinton’s former chief health-care policy adviser.
Obamacare also came up during a meeting Tuesday between members of the Congressional Black Caucus and President Obama, who is briefed weekly about the law’s rollout.
The issue erupted in Washington this month after the administration announced it was delaying a requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees offer a minimal level of health-care coverage, one of several recent changes.
Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-N.J.), who has served as a key liaison to the White House, said the delays “signify an administration that’s listening to practical problems and is trying to address them and solve them.”
But Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), whose House committee will hold a July 18 hearing on several aspects of the law, said Obamacare is “simply not ready” to take full effect in October, when open enrollment begins in states across the country. In addition to delaying the employer mandate, the administration also issued rules Friday delaying until 2015 a requirement that new insurance marketplaces verify consumers’ income and health-insurance status.
“If Americans are taking a careful look at it, they will see the administration is beginning to admit the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has some serious problems,” Murphy said, adding that the administration “is focusing on the advertising on this” rather than substantive issues.
Independent groups on both sides have begun escalating their campaigns this week. On Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity, a prominent conservative group, started airing a $700,000 ad buy on broadcast and cable networks in Virginia and Ohio in which a pregnant mother raised concerns about the potential problems her son could face getting insurance under the law.