#AskSebelius: Questions for Tomorrow’s ObamaCare Hearing

With Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius set to appear before an Energy & Commerce subcommittee tomorrow, we’ve started a list of questions for her to answer.  The committee has put together its own list, and we encourage you to add yours in the comments section below.    

Q: The president gave a speech last week about income equality, and the importance of strengthening the middle class.  Do you consider the cost of plans under this law – factoring in both premiums and deductibles – ‘affordable’ for middle-class families?

  • “The Affordable Care Act is turning out to be less than affordable for some consumers.  That’s because many of the plans carry huge deductibles, creating potential financial problems for middle-class consumers.   Some ‘bronze’-level plans, the lowest level of coverage, carry deductibles as high as $12,700 per year for a family of four.  … What’s worse, that represents an increase of 40 percent from the average deductible for an individually purchased plan before the federal health care overhaul … The math makes it clear that many middle-income families will be hit the hardest.” (CBS MoneyWatch)

Q: Last week, the House Small Business Committee held a hearing to bring to light a problem many small employers are having in the form of complicated “aggregation rules” that are creating huge cost and compliance issues.  This administration has provided delays and workarounds for insurance companies and big businesses.  Can you provide small businesses with some relief – or at least some clarity – on this issue?

  • “Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) agreed, at one point calling that portion of the tax code ‘complex and confusing, even for most experts.’   Even Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), an unwavering supporter of the president’s signature law, said she ‘remains concerned about how these very complex rules will impact small firms.’” (The Washington Post)

Q: Last week, the Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing to explore the impact of the new law on Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.  Will the administration keep its promise to America’s seniors that they will be able to keep the doctors they like?

  • “Dorathy Senay’s doctor had some bad news after her last checkup…Her Medicare Advantage managed care plan from UnitedHealthcare/AARP is terminating the doctor’s contract Feb. 1.  She is also losing her oncologist at the prestigious Yale Medical Group — the entire 1,200 physician practice was axed.  Senay, 71, of Canterbury, Conn., is among thousands of UnitedHealthcare Medicare members in 10 states whose doctors will be cut from their plan network.” (Kaiser Health News)

Q: Can you provide American taxpayers with a dollar figure – or at least an estimate – of how much it has cost them to repair the health care website?

  • This would simply be asking the Secretary to provide information she has already promised: “Sebelius told lawmakers during a House committee hearing on Oct. 30 that she wanted to ‘very quickly’ provide a written estimate of how much the U.S. government has spent on all health insurance exchanges.  More than a month later, no number has been supplied.”  (Bloomberg)

Q: Earlier this week, Reps. Pat Meehan (R-PA) and Diane Black (R-TN) asked the IRS to account for a recent audit showing that the health care website could be vulnerable to hackers.  How can the administration assure the American people that their personal information is safe?

  • “The lawmakers pointed to a recent report from the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, the government’s chief watchdog for the IRS, which said that ‘critical elements of the security controls failed during testing.’  ‘This audit raises important questions as to whether the IRS can successfully protect taxpayer data against fraud and abuse,’ the lawmakers wrote.” (The Washington Times)

Q: Tomorrow, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee will hear from three doctors who will testify about the impact this law is having on their patients and practices.  In 2010, you said “the bottom line is that under the Affordable Care Act, if you like your doctor and plan, you can keep them.”  If Americans like their doctors, why can’t they keep them, and what does it say to you that there are doctors out there closing their practices on account of this law?

  • “Dr. Robert Parker of Parker Family Eyecare in Kingston will close his private practice by the end of the month.  … Parker said it is too burdensome to meet the new federal requirements.  ‘It became pretty obvious to me that the better choice was not to continue,’ Parker said.  … ‘When they lose that local person that they've gone to for years and has watched their families grow up, you lose a lot of continuity of the care.’” (WBIR-TV, Kingston, TN)