At Jan. 26 hearings on health care reform held by both the House Budget and Ways and Means Committees, the new Republican majority took the opportunity to question Obama Administration officials on the economic repercussions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

When Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) asked Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, whether or not PPACA was a failure because organizations such as the Congressional Budget Office and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services predict health care spending will continue to rise, Goolsbee replied that it is not a failure because "the key thing" is lowering the health care cost inflation rate, which he contended PPACA does.

"Total spending has been rising quite dramatically for many years, and I would observe that CMS’s data suggested that health care spending overall rose at the slowest rate this past year that it has since they have been keeping records," Goolsbee countered.

Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) opened the Budge Committee’s first hearing of the 112th Congress by explaining why the committee chose the topic of health reform.

"The new health care law was sold under the guise of fiscal responsibility. The claim was that the government would spend trillions of dollars, add millions to a new government-controlled health care program, and create two new open-ended health care entitlements — all in order to lighten our budgetary burden," said Ryan. "Most Americans understand that something is just not adding up here."

Also during the Budget Committee hearing, when asked for a "true" or "false" answer by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) on whether or not the "two principal promises" made in support of health care reform were that it would hold down costs and that "if you like your plan, you can keep it," CMS Chief Actuary Richard Foster responded, "I would say false, more so than true," and "not true in all cases," respectively.

Two small business owners, an IHOP franchisee and a print shop owner, were invited to testify in front of the Ways and Means Committee following Goolsbee’s testimony.

In advance of their appearance, Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA) asked Goolsbee to comment on the fact that many small businesses in Herger’s district were reporting that PPACA is "a hardship for them."

Goolsbee responded that many business owners have a "misunderstanding" of the law’s contents or which provisions apply to their company.

He then stated examples of how PPACA benefits small businesses by both allowing up to four million of them to qualify for "a substantial tax credit to help cover their costs," and, once the exchanges are in place, offering them insurance coverage at prices comparable to large employer rates.

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