3:52pm

Wed January 26, 2011
Shots - Health News Blog

House Republicans Mount Hearings To Take On Health Law

Call it the next phase of the GOP challenge to President Obama's signature health law.

House Republicans have launched a series of hearings aimed at giving the law the comeuppance they think it deserves.

And, noted House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), an airing they say it failed to get during the year it was debated prior its March, 2010 passage:

It's my intention to give the American people and employers, both large and small, the opportunity they did not have, when this law was being written, to testify in an open hearing, about the impact this law will have on them.

Over at the House Budget Committee, Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was making it clear he still thinks the whole law simply has to go. "We must reject the notion that a centrally planned, bureaucratically run health care system can produce more favorable outcomes than the one managed by doctors and patients," he said.

Ryan's opening witness was someone the GOP has been itching for months to get to a hearing table: Medicare Chief Actuary Richard Foster. Republicans boosted the normally anonymous Foster to prominence last year when he said the health law would increase overall health spending — a prediction he reiterated at the Budget panel hearing.

But over at Ways and Means, President Obama's top economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, was arguing that an increase in overall spending isn't the right way to measure whether the law is actually slowing health care inflation:

If more people are being covered and having their health improved and have the security to know that they cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, the amount of total health spending is different than looking at what the prices are and trying to control health care price inflation.

In fact, Goolsbee insisted, not only will the law help slow health spending, it could also help reduce the unemployment rate.

But Republicans, found that claim difficult to swallow. "It's one thing to come up with academic arguments for why a particular policy will be good for job creation," said Wally Herger (R-CA). "It's another thing to have those results actually demonstrated in the real world."

And to prove their point, the GOP brought a couple of real-world small business owners who said they've been hurt by the law.

They included Scott Womack of Terre Haute, Ind. He owns a dozen IHOP restaurants. He says starting in 2014, he'll be smacked with having to provide health insurance to all his workers or pay a penalty. "It's not just a marginal cost increase, this is a huge new expense," he told the lawmakers. "And at $7,000 per employee, it is beyond our ability to pay."

But Thursday Senate Democrats will launch their own set of hearings — to try to buttress the need for the health law. They'll feature their own witnesses, real people, the Democrats say are reaping benefits from the law. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.