- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

President Obama’s health care overhaul marks its second anniversary this week, and from the way Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are talking about it, you would think they are looking at two entirely different laws.

The administration and its congressional allies have homed in on provisions among the law’s 1,000 pages that offer quick returns: extending parents’ plans to cover young adults, expanding drug coverage for seniors and eliminating lifetime benefit caps.

But for Republicans, the focus is almost exclusively on the long-term costs of the law and potential limits they say the government will be forced to impose on care. Both, they argue, will cancel out any immediate benefits.

And to pack an extra political punch just days before the Supreme Court hears a challenge to the law, House Republican leaders have said they will hold a vote before the end of the week on legislation repealing a key part of the law - a panel of appointees charged with curbing Medicare costs called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

“Nearly two years since its passage, the Democrats’ health care law remains deeply unpopular,” said Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “IPAB, which is a critical component of the law, illustrates why those concerns are still so strong.”

Democrats are pointing to immediate benefits from the law in an effort to rehabilitate its image in the minds of voters, who take a dim view of it two years after its passage. An ABC-Washington Post poll released Monday found that Americans oppose the law by 52 percent to 41 percent.

And the law also faces legal pressures. The Supreme Court holds several days of oral argument on the law next week, with a ruling expected this summer.

The House IPAB repeal vote will mark the 26th time the House has voted to repeal all or part of the health care law, although nearly all of the efforts have been blocked in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The problem with IPAB, Republicans charge, is also the main problem with the rest of the Affordable Care Act: too much federal control over health-care decisions. Painting the federal law as a tangle of federal bureaucracy and oppressive regulations, they say it will cause health care costs to rapidly inflate, weighing on businesses and crushing job creation.

“This ‘government knows best’ approach is why Americans across the country support repeal, and it is also why there is strong bipartisan support here in Congress to repeal IPAB,” Mr. Camp said.

But Democrats said they have plenty of evidence that the law is working, taking special pains this week to highlight how it has helped such Democrat-leaning voters as young adults, women and seniors.

House Democrats gathered Wednesday to applaud a new requirement for insurers to cover children up to age 26 on their parents’ plans. While the number of uninsured as risen in most age categories since the law was passed, the number has dropped among young adults with some 2.5 million added to insurance rolls, according to estimates by the administration.

“I can think of no stronger provision in the Affordable Care Act there is than to protect young people under the age of 26 and enabling them to go on their parents’ health insurance plan,” said Rep. Donna Edwards, Maryland Democrat.

And a group of Democratic female senators pointed to provisions aimed at helping women, praising the law for “groundbreaking advancements” in women’s health.

Under the law, insurers can’t drop women from coverage when they get pregnant or charge them higher premiums than men. Insurers must also cover preventive services such as mammograms and contraception without charging co-payments, among a number of other provisions.

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