Pa. celebrates, laments health law milestone

    A year after the federal health-care overhaul became law, the measure remains a partisan lighting rod.

    On the legislation’s one-year anniversary, Republican Congressman Joe Pitts held a field hearing at the Pennsylvania Capitol on the measure’s impact.

    The phrases “broken promises” and “Obamacare” in press releases announcing the session were good clues about how the hearing would go, as was an early question Republican G.T. Thompson directed at acting Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander.

    “Mr. Secretary, the new law creates a trillion-dollar entitlement program, expands Medicaid, imposes new taxes and regulatory burdens on American employers and workers,” he said. “In your view, does the new law control and reduce the trend of increasing public health care expenditures in Pennsylvania?”

    “Absolutely not,” responded Alexander.

    At the other end of the spectrum, the Democratic group Organizing for America is holding several events across Pennsylvania celebrating the law’s passage. The group argues the measure has already expanded coverage options by allowing the 922,000 Pennsylvanians under the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans, among other changes.

    “It’s been able to provide Americans with more freedom and more control over their health-care choices,” said OFA’s Pennsylvania director, Elizabeth Lucas. “Children can’t be denied that were born with an existing condition. People can’t be denied insurance that have pre-existing conditions.” The group points out 262,800 Pennsylvania small businesses have gotten tax credits from the law.

    “Those good things are wrapped in a very flawed bill,” said Thompson after the hearing. “I don’t think we should ever push back from the point that repealing … the president’s health-care bill is not the right thing to do. It really is.”

    “My worst nightmares have started to come true. Costs have gone up. …we’ve seen access issues, we’ve seen quality and innovation stymied, and we have people who are very afraid of who’s making their health care decisions,” Thompson continued

    During brief testimony, Gov. Tom Corbett urged the president to expedite legal challenges to the bill’s constitutionality, so the Supreme Court can hear arguments on the case as quickly as possible.

    “Pennsylvania and all states need clarity. Our businesses, our health-care providers and our citizens deserve quick action, and frankly, we need to know what our options and obligations will be,” he said.

    Corbett is holding off on deciding whether to create a state health insurance exchange until the legal challenges are settled. As attorney general, Corbett joined one of the suits seeking to overturn the law.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal