By Ken de la Bastide
The Affordable Care Act is starting to unravel, Howard County's two representatives in the U.S. House said, as the date for implementation draws closer.
The first of the provisions for a national health care program, also known as "Obamacare," starts to take effect in January.
"It is unraveling," Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th District, said. "People are finally getting to do what [former House speaker Nancy Pelosi] told us to do, people are finally reading the bill. It doesn't work; you can't force people into already broken programs unless you're going to ration their care and the quality of their health care."
Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th District, said the nation is starting to feel the consequences of the legislation and people have to start signing up for the health insurance exchange programs in October.
"I think it will be interesting to see if the president or the administration requests a delay in implementation because they can't get it done," she said. "Insurance companies have to prepare for it and employers are overwhelmed."
Brooks said she met with small business owners last week and it was the top issue of concern.
"Some businesses are considering splitting up their companies so they don't have more than 50 employees in a division," she said. "Some are not hiring new employees when they could, which is a huge problem."
Brooks said companies are already hiring more part-time employees instead of full-time positions so they don't have to provide health insurance. She said companies are going to change how they're doing things to avoid the health care mandate.
"I can see more people losing their employer-sponsored health care," she said. "Companies are considering taking the penalty and paying the fine and not worrying about health insurance. Many people looking for a job are more interested in the benefits than the actual pay."
Brooks noted both houses of Congress have voted to repeal the medical device excise tax of 2.3 percent but it's uncertain if President Obama will sign or veto the legislation.
"The tax was implemented to pay for the Affordable Care Act," she said. "That funding will have to be replaced."
Brooks said the proposed tax will cost jobs in Indiana, which is one of the leading states when it comes to manufacturing medical devices.
"Companies across the state said they were planning to expand, but because of the tax can't roll out new products," she said. "It will cost jobs in Indiana."
Rokita said there is going to be an "awakening" among the American people when it comes to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
"There is an opportunity to do this right," he said. "Like any big issue there has to be a national discussion. You cannot pass big bad ideas in the dead of night, force it down people's throats and expect it to work out."
Rokita vowed to vote at every opportunity to repeal the ACA or eliminate funding for parts of the program.
He said even if the Republican-controlled House passes a repeal measure it's only one third of the decision-making process with the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama holding the trump cards.