Under the Dome

January 13, 2014

NC GOP leaders form committee to investigate Obamacare’s impacts

Republican leaders formed legislative committee to investigate the Affordable Care Act’s affect on the state. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, a U.S. Senate candidate, want their committee to look at dropped coverage and higher premiums associated with Obamacare.

A pair of North Carolina Republican leaders, including a U.S. Senate candidate, have formed a legislative committee to investigate the affect of the Affordable Care Act on the state’s economy and residents.

The announcement by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis sets the tone for the planned investigation laden with politics. The notice specifically mentioned investigating market disruptions, canceled insurance policies and higher premiums.

Tillis is waging a U.S. Senate campaign against Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and making Obamacare the centerpiece of his attacks against Hagan, who voted for the controversial law. The federal health care law’s botched roll out is helping to drag down Hagan’s poll numbers.

The announcement of the legislative probe also comes two days before President Obama is scheduled to visit the Triangle to discuss his policy priorities.

The Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature domestic policy, has been fraught with problems and controversies that have included a malfunctioning federal web site, policy cancellations by insurance companies, and numerous implementation delays. While many are able to buy health insurance for the first time, about a third of Blue Cross and Blue Shield individual policy holders in this state have seen significant cost increases, sometimes double and triple last year’s prices.

Supporters of the law blame the Republican-led state legislature for some of the cost increases. They contend that health insurance costs would have been lower here had North Carolina formed its own insurance exchange, instead of deferring to the feds, who charge the state for the service. Supporters also contend that the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid will steer low-income uninsured people to private insurance, driving up insurance.

But Adam Linker, a policy analyst with the liberal N.C. Justice Center, said he doesn’t expect the benefits of the law to get much attention during the upcoming investigation. “These things are obviously rigged from the beginning,” Linker said.

The members of the panel – formally called the Joint Legislative Study Committee to Investigate the Impacts of the Affordable Care Act on North Carolina – will be announced in the next few weeks.

The witnesses, presenters and speakers, as well as the number and location of meetings, have not been determined.

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to buy health insurance, and provides federal subsidies for those who fall within certain income levels. The law prohibits insurers from turning away potential customers who have pre-existing conditions, and limits the prices insurers can set for older people, who tend to have more health expenses.

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