Dems defend regulations as GOP attacks healthcare law

Democrats accused Republicans of trying to eliminate important patient protections.

“Here we are again, and what we’re witnessing once again today is an effort by the Republicans to do the bidding of the insurance companies at the expense of consumers,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky said.

Republicans also drew attention to several unrelated elements of the healthcare law, including one that governs how insurers spend their money. The provision requires plans to spend 80 or 85 percent of their premiums on medical costs.

Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) charged that the rules create a “perverse incentive” for insurers not to invest in quality improvement. Although the regulations exempt some quality-improvement and anti-fraud activities, insurers say the carve-out is too narrow.

Steve Larsen, who chairs the HHS office overseeing implementation of the healthcare law, said it’s not clear when the department will issue final regulations on the spending requirements. Preliminary rules applied different standards to certain bare-bones plans this year while HHS studied how to apply the rules to those policies in the future.

Larsen wouldn’t describe to reporters what HHS has learned during that period.