WASHINGTON (CN) – Members of a House committee held a testy, partisan slugfest over repealing Obamacare Tuesday, with Republicans citing its failures and Democrats accusing their counterparts of pulling the rug out from under millions of Americans without a plan to repeal the maligned law.
With few exceptions, each side came armed with a set of opposing facts to support their positions, leading Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to proclaim that although she had served on the Budget Committee in the 112th Congress, "it appears that I have returned to the alternate facts committee" in the 115th.
"Because that's what we've been subjected to throughout this hearing," the Democrat from Florida said about halfway through the hearing.
Republicans on the House Budget Committee - led by Republican chairwoman Diane Black of Tennessee - warned of a health care system on the verge of a death spiral. Democrats, on the other hand, accused Republicans of complaining about the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, without offering any constructive solutions.
In her opening remarks of the hearing dubbed “The Failures of Obamacare: Harmful Effects and Broken Promises,” Black downplayed the Jan. 17 Congressional Budget Office report that determined 18 million Americans would lose health care in the first year after repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
"What the CBO study ignores is any potential Republican ideas to reform the health care and expand access," the committee chairman said.
According to Black, the Affordable Care Act is also responsible for booting tens of thousands off their previous coverage.
"In my home state of Tennessee, 28,000 people lost coverage on a single day when the CoverTN program lapsed after the Obama administration decreed that it ran afoul of the federal government’s top-down requirements," she said.
Wasserman Schultz, however, had a very different set of facts, and called Black out on some of hers.
"I wonder if it would surprise you to learn that 28 percent more Tennesseans gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act," she said, adding that 260,000 more Tennesseans have insurance now who did not have it before.
Many of the 28,000 kicked off their plans before implementation of Obamacare were able to get more affordable health care plans, Wasserman Schultz suggested.
Black, a nurse for more than 40 years, also claimed the Affordable Care Act was responsible for 80 hospital closures since 2010, insurance premium and deductable spikes, and states and counties being reduced to only one insurance provider.
"Average family premiums have risen by $4,300 and deductibles have risen by 60 percent in the employer-sponsored market," Black said.
Rising rates have indeed sparked concerns for Americans struggling to make ends meet. And many young Americans, as noted by Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute who testified before the committee, are opting to pay the penalty or get an exemption rather than enroll in health insurance.
"Young people purchasing individual policies in or out of the exchanges are required to pay much more for their policies than their actuarially-expected costs because of the law’s required 3:1 age rating band," she said in written testimony.
"Forcing the young to pay more drives costs up for everyone," Turner added, noting that their lack of participation has destabilized the insurance exchange pools.