A measure passed by the U.S. House that would allow states to decide to maintain the definition of small group market under the federal Affordable Care Act is gaining support in Washington, according to Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green.
House Resolution 1624, called the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees – or PACE – Act, passed the full House on Monday is headed to the U.S. Senate. Guthrie introduced the PACE Act along with Reps. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.; Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.; and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.
Although the ACA, also referred to as Obamacare, has been upheld twice at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Republican-controlled Congress still wants to throw out or modify the linchpin of President Barack Obama’s presidency. Guthrie said the PACE Act would tackle one important piece of the embattled federal health care framework.
“Members from the other party are starting to hear from the medium-sized businesses in their districts,” Guthrie told the Daily News on Tuesday. “This is the first major correction to the health care law.”
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce urged the change because expanding the group market designation to one employee to 100 from the current two classes of 1-50 and 50-100 would impact cost of health insurance premiums — meaning as rates increase, the mid-sized groups may drop health insurance coverage or self-insure. That would lead to rate increases for the small group market, the state chamber said.
“It is in the best interest of Kentucky employers and their employees that states determine the definition of their small group market,” Dave Adkisson, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky chamber, said in an April letter to Guthrie. “By repealing the ACA mandated expansion and returning to the state determination model will allow flexibility for employers and ensure a broad array of coverage options and mitigate premium increases.”
With the changes that were set to take place “people would lose their plans,” Guthrie said.
“The House acted to prevent dramatic rate hikes and the anticipated loss of coverage for millions of hard-working Americans,” said Guthrie, vice chairman of the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In a statement after the vote, Guthrie said: “I’ve heard from small business owners across Kentucky who are worried about being able to comply with the new regulations and afford the changes in health care plan costs. ... I’m hopeful the Senate will act quickly so we can deliver some certainty to business owners and their employers.”
Guthrie also discussed some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering on the national budget.
Congress approved a stopgap spending bill late Wednesday that funds the federal government until Dec. 11. That budget resolution contains Title 10 Family Planning money, which can’t be used for abortions.
The abortion funding battle will continue past Dec. 11 when another budget bill comes up for a vote, Guthrie said.
The idea has two parts. The first is to develop a measure in which states have more flexibility on removing Planned Parenthood funding. “This will allow the states to ban fetal tissue procedures,” Guthrie said.
Planned Parenthood is tied to the larger issue of federal-funded abortions and the more specific issue of the videos about fetal body parts, which many lawmakers and GOP presidential candidate Carly Fioriana have deplored.
Eighty percent of the $500 million Planned Parenthood budget is contained in Medicaid funding, which is mandatory spending and not subject to annual appropriations. That means that Planned Parenthood is not just a single, $500 million line item that can be deleted from the federal budget, or even a budget continuing resolution, Guthrie said. The mechanics of the funding are more complex than that.
The second part of the GOP-backed Planned Parenthood approach is the appointment of a select committee to further explore the videos tied to Planned Parenthood. “We want to get to the bottom of this,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie also commented on U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to step down last week.
“I appreciate Speaker Boehner’s service to the House of Representatives and the Republican Party. I wish him the best as he prepares for retirement at the end of October. I am confident that the new House Republican leadership team will guide our conference to tackle the pressing issues before our country,” he said.
The House of Representatives is in session until the week of Oct. 12.