Department heads urge against repeal, outline reform's benefits

Federal agency leaders outlined the progress of the new healthcare reform law in a letter to Congress on Wednesday, one week before the House is expected to repeal the overhaul.

In the almost nine months since the reform law was enacted, it is already holding insurance companies more accountable and has provided important consumer protections, according to the letter from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. The department chiefs, echoing Democratic leaders in Congress, said repealing the law would hurt consumers.

“We urge you to consider all that this law has already done to improve the health and financial security of so many Americans — and what it will mean to hundreds of millions or more in the next several years — as you evaluate any proposal that would set the Nation back on a path to higher costs and skyrocketing premiums, less competition, and fewer consumer protections against industry abuses,” the letter said.

The secretaries pointed to the law’s consumer protections, including allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old, new requirements on how much insurers spend on care, coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, reviews on “unreasonable” insurance rate hikes, and more. 

“Thanks to the new law, many of the insurance industry’s worst abuses are history, and other unfair practices are on their way out,” they wrote.

HHS has made an effort to promote the reform law’s consumer protections this week, ahead of next Wednesday’s repeal vote. On Tuesday, the department pushed out state-specific figures of how many people are covered by the reform law’s consumer protections.

The House is expected to repeal the reform law next week, but the measure has little chance of being supported by the Democratic-controlled Senate. A GOP resolution introduced on Monday directed key House committees to draft proposals on how to replace the reform law.