Obamacare hearing highlights employers’ worry and uncertainty; Yarmuth says repeal and defunding bids block needed changes

Three of Kentucky’s congressmen agreement at a field hearing in Lexington Tuesday that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act needs changing, but had no a consensus on how it should be fixed.

From left, U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District; Andy Barr, R-6th District; and Brett
Guthrie, R-2nd District, listen to Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, who chaired the hearing.

Business leaders at the hearing also called for a fix, saying the law creates challenges for employees, workers and the economy.

Republican Reps. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green and Andy Barr of Lexington said the law should be repealed. Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville said efforts to change the law are hindered by efforts to repeal or defund it, reports Ryan Alessi of cn|2‘s “Pure Politics.”

Yarmuth supports changes to the law’s definition of a full-time employee as one that averages 30 hours of work a week, which he says has led to unintended consequences. Many of the 130 hearing attendees also expressed concern about the 30-hour employees, Alessi reports.

The law includes a mandate that companies 50 or more full-time employees must provide those workers with health insurance or pay a $2,000 penalty per employee. Although this mandate has been delayed a year by the Obama administration, the employee mandate and complex regulations of the law has created “massive uncertainty” for U.S. employers, said Barr.

Several business owners complained about the looming mandate and uncertainty as well as the harmful financial consequences of Obamacare at the hearing, which was held by the U.S. House’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pension. Six of the eight speakers were Republicans expressing opposition to the law.

“What we know is what the administration is now admitting — that this massive piece of legislation is unworkable,” said Barr, who also said that the law should be permanently delayed, reports Alessi.

A majority of Americans (57 percent) disapprove of “defunding” Obamacare as a way to stop the law from being implemented, says an August poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.  Almost 70 percent of respondents said defunding would be “using the budget process to stop a law is not the way our government should work.”

Long-time Lexington restaurant owner Joe Bologna said he is concerned that Obamacare will impact people’s ability to eat out.  To prepare for this and rising health costs faced by the business, he has reduced his staff from 54 to 47 and is closed on Mondays, reports Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader. Other business people shared similar stories about the law’s negative consequences.

On the other hand, Carrie Banahan, executive director of the Kentucky Health Benefits Exchange, the state’s online insurance marketplace, said the law will improve Kentucky’s health. There were many supporters of the law at the hearing, and some even hissed at critics of the law, reports Alessi.

“If we could get a bipartisan agreement to actually work on tweaks legislatively, I think we could dramatically improve the law and eliminate a lot of uncertainty,” said Yarmuth. Click here to read more about testimonies form the hearing or to watch cn|2 videos.

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