The New York Times has an article out Tuesday titled “Partisan Gridlock Thwarts Effort to Alter Health Law” claiming, “Almost no law as sprawling and consequential as the Affordable Care Act has passed without changes — significant structural changes or routine tweaks known as “technical corrections” — in subsequent months and years. … But as they prowl Capitol Hill, business lobbyists like Mr. DeFife, health care providers and others seeking changes are finding, to their dismay, that in a polarized Congress, accomplishing them has become all but impossible. Republicans simply want to see the entire law go away and will not take part in adjusting it.”
The article goes on to mention a number of specific changes to Obamacare that are being pushed on Capitol Hill, almost all of which would make the law more expensive. But at no point does the article acknowledge that Congress has already passed three Obamacare fixes.
First, in February 2011, Congress repealed the 1099 reporting requirements. Before repeal, all businesses would have been forced to file a 1099-MISC form with the IRS form every time they purchased anything worth more than $600 from a vendor. Democrats first included this provision to add $22 billion in revenue to the bill so they could claim it didn’t add to the deficit. Congress paid for the 1099 repeal by upping the fines individuals would pay if an increase in income bumped them out of qualifying for Obamacare subsidies.
Second, in April 2011, Congress repealed a provision that would have allowed employees to opt out of employer coverage and get a voucher for health insurance from their employer instead. Employers currently offering health insurance pushed for the change since they worried that healthy employers would opt for the voucher and buy cheaper insurance on the exchanges, thus leaving the employers with a sicker and more expensive pool of workers to pay for.
Finally, in January of this year, Congress repealed the CLASS Act, which Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had already shut down in 2011. “I do not see a viable path forward,” Sebelius said of the CLASS Act at the time.
None of these reforms changes the fundamental top-down nature of Obamacare. But they do show that on at least two separate occasions business interests harmed by Obamacare have been able to work their will on a polarized Congress and minimize the damage.