GOP finds ObamaCare opening

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Republicans have found a new opening against ObamaCare after struggling for months to craft a fresh strategy against a healthcare law that now covers millions of people.

Lifted by a pair of federal audits that found major flaws with the law’s implementation, Republicans see their first chance in months to launch a serious attack against the law. 

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“The news that we’ve seen over the last week and a half really emphasizes what conservatives and Republicans were trying to do last year, which was preventing a lot of this from happening,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for the conservative political group Heritage Action for America.

“What I hope happens is that the Republican Party as a whole says, ‘Yes, there is a reason besides politics that we’re fighting ObamaCare: It’s hurting people,’” Holler said.

One report by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that some insurers were ignoring federal rules that prevented women from paying for abortions through their subsidized plans – one of the most divisive pieces of the law.

A second GAO report found security weaknesses in HealthCare.gov, the website for the federal exchange.

GOP lawmakers and activists say the reports lend legitimacy to their opposition of the law, even if they are no longer talking about a repeal.

They are using the fresh ammunition to fire new accusations against the Department of Health and Human Services for potentially compromising personal information for millions of people.

The security of HealthCare.gov is also becoming a public concern. About 54 percent of people said they are worried about the security of the website, according to a poll released Wednesday by Morning Consult.

Each person who signs up for ObamaCare must provide their Social Security number and home address, as well as income and tax information.

The website security issue – as well as the finding that abortion coverage was included in more than 1,000 plans nationally – could shed new attention on healthcare reform after it was largely ignored by the GOP this year.

The House has held just one vote on a bill to undermine ObamaCare since April. That vote took place this week, supporting a bill from Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that would allow people to keep cheap group health plans even if they don’t meet federal requirements. 

Democrats also claimed victories for ObamaCare this week.

The administration announced Thursday that 7.3 million people were still paying for their plans after the initial sign-ups, a figure that exceeded expectations. It also released new numbers on the nation’s uninsured, which reached the lowest level since the 1990s, though the figures don't reflect final enrollment figures from ObamaCare.

Paul Ginsburg, a health policy analyst at the University of Southern California, said enrollment was ObamaCare’s most crucial test – and it has largely passed. With that challenge out of the way, he believes issues such as website security will get worked through. 

“There’s still lots of room for attacks, but the attacks aren’t going to say, ‘Let’s repeal this.’ I think that’s no longer politically attractive because of the large number who are now benefitting from the law,” said Gisburg, who is the former president of the Center for Studying Health System Change.

Despite an imperfect sign-up system, polls show that most people who signed up for ObamaCare are happy with their plans.  

Nearly 70 percent of people who are enrolled in the federal marketplace say they are satisfied with their plans, according to a poll released this week by the nonpartisan think tank, Commonwealth Fund.

Still, two-thirds of people said they were not happy with their experiences using the federal exchange. 

“People are willing to put up with some of the difficulties that they faced in order to get the coverage,” said Sara Collins, executive director of healthcare for the Commonwealth Fund, who analyzed the findings.

She added that there is still work to be done by federal and state officials to ensure the marketplaces are running smoothly, but said the demand for coverage is clear.

Strong enrollment numbers could quiet future GOP attacks, said Peter Cunningham, a health policy researcher at the Virginia Commonwealth University.

Despite some of its “rough edges,” Cunningham said the healthcare law is largely working the way it was intended.

“The issue is that a lot of people have received coverage, most people are apparently satisfied with that coverage, so for people who continue to criticize the law, the question is, what’s your alternative? Is it really an option at this point to repeal the law and terminate the coverage of millions of people?” he said.