WASHINGTON – Addressing members of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America gathered here for their annual legislative conference last week, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told the attendees that the debate over the fate of the Affordable Care Act has finally ended—at least for this election year.
With at least three Republican senators and 25 congressmen—including House Speaker Paul Ryan—retiring at term’s end, Hoyer says new Republican legislative initiatives will most likely slow to a halt.
“I doubt they will continue to repeal—or attempt to modify substantially—the Affordable Care Act or even try to bring regular appropriation bills to the floor,” Hoyer told the brokers in attendance. “This means that the remainder of this House calendar year will focus on expiring items or other time sensitive legislation.”
Taking the podium immediately following Hoyer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment on the fate of the ACA. But by sidestepping what has been his party’s signature issue and not taking exception to the Democratic congressman’s remarks, McConnell gave the conference attendees the impression that he agreed with Hoyer’s assessment.
IIABA president and CEO Robert Rusbuldt says it sent a huge message to the group’s members to have both politicians in the same room and not argue over healthcare, adding that he agrees with Hoyer’s assertion that, owing to the number of Republican incumbents retiring, the party will not pursue new legislation or ACA repeal efforts—at least for the remainder of 2018.
“Everybody had high hopes at the beginning of this Congress that the Affordable Care Act would be dealt with, and of course it has not,” Rusbuldt says. “The signal I received is that healthcare reform will be pumped into the new Congress regardless of who the new Speaker of the House will be.”
Clinton Duke, the owner of brokerage Waring-Ahearn in Leonardtown, Md., says that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have managed to achieve their goals when it comes to the ACA.
“The Republicans are frustrated that they have failed to repeal the ACA,” Duke says. “As for the Democrats, while they are happy that the Republicans have not succeeded, they are still frustrated that they cannot tweak the ACA to make it better.”
Mike Wojcik, senior vice president of The Horton Group out of Orland Park, Ill., says legislators should end their efforts to repeal the ACA and find ways to improve on the legislation.
“’Repeal’ is no longer a well-liked word in Washington,” Wojcik says. “Modify, fix, whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is that the current system leads to increases in healthcare costs for employers and individuals that cannot be sustained.”
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