Politics

GOP wastes no time in going after Obama proposal for broader government regulation of health insurance

Republicans pounced on the news Sunday night that President Obama wants to give the federal government new powers to regulate health insurance rates.

“Wow, this is the biggest news of the week: even the White House is now admitting that their massive health spending bill won’t do anything about rising premiums,” said a Republican Senate leadership aide.

Obama on Monday will include in a health care proposal new authority for the secretary of health and human services to veto insurance rate hikes that it deems excessive, and will create a federal panel that would set guidelines for health insurers to follow in determining their rates. The details were first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by the Daily Caller.

“This seems to be an admission on the part of the Obama Administration that their massive government takeover of health care will, despite their promises, increase health care premiums for millions of Americans,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican.

But a White House official said the federal government’s regulatory powers were more of a stopgap measure designed to immediately address the problem of skyrocketing premiums.

“This goes into effect immediately, while the exchanges take a few years to get up and running. And we know the insurers aren’t wasting any time in jacking up rates,” the White House official told the Daily Caller Sunday night.

However, the administration official said the government’s regulatory powers would not be diminished or eliminated once the government-run insurance exchanges are fully operational.

The White House will post a draft of the president’s health care proposal at 10 a.m. Monday. It is a precursor to Obama’s public meeting at the White House on Thursday with Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress.

Talk in Washington has increasingly focused on whether or not Democrats will try to ram the bill through the Senate using a process called “reconciliation.” But there has been little talk about the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, would still have to wrangle 218 votes out of her caucus.