Sebelius urges supporters to defend health reform law

Congressional Republicans have continued to urge repeal of the statute while attempting to invalidate pieces of it.

By Charles Fiegl amednews staff — Posted Jan. 26, 2012

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned health system reform law supporters that opponents of the landmark measure will increase their efforts to dismantle it in 2012.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats have fought with Republicans over the law's implementation, Sebelius said during the Jan. 18 opening session of the Health Action 2012 conference sponsored by Families USA, a liberal consumer advocacy group in Washington. She called on those already receiving new health benefits under the law to be ready to defend the statute from what she predicted as a barrage of smears and misinformation heading into the presidential election.

"The law's opponents are going to step up their attacks, because they can see their window to attack is closing," Sebelius said. "At the same time, the upcoming anniversary of the law and a [U.S.] Supreme Court decision will put a new spotlight on the law in the coming months."

Sebelius, who later received a standing ovation from the crowd, urged supporters to be active this election year. She encouraged conference attendees to help educate their neighbors about its new benefits, such as zero co-pays on certain preventive services. "The more they take advantage of its benefits, the harder it will be for the law's opponents to take those benefits away."

House Republicans on Jan. 19 marked the one-year anniversary of a vote to repeal the entire reform law. The comprehensive repeal effort has failed in the Senate, but some smaller pieces of the law have been eliminated, in some cases with bipartisan support.

A tax reporting provision that would have required businesses to file 1099 forms with the Internal Revenue Service whenever they spent at least $600 on vendors' goods or services was revoked in April 2011.

The reform law also would have allowed some individuals earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level to qualify for Medicaid starting in 2014. But Congress in November 2011 voted to adjust the formula used to determine eligibility for the program and subsidies to purchase health insurance exchanges, eliminating the loophole.

In February, the House is expected to vote on the repeal of a community assisted living provision in the law known as the CLASS Act. Sebelius revealed last year that HHS had suspended work on implementing the provision because the program was deemed not viable.

House Republicans also have bipartisan support to repeal another reform provision that creates the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB would authorize cuts in Medicare spending whenever projected costs exceeded predetermined growth targets.

The American Medical Association and other physician organizations supported the 1099 tax reporting repeal and efforts to repeal the pay board.

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