HURON — Forty-six Republican senators — including Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. — are urging President Obama to permanently delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
In a letter to the White House, the senators said implementation of the law would cause significant economic harm to American families.
They are basing their call for a delay of the entire bill on the fact that Obama delayed implementation of the employer mandate for another year.
That action tells the GOP senators that the administration is acknowledging the expense employers will bear when their mandate takes effect, Thune said in a Wednesday conference call with reporters.
But the president must also listen to the millions of Americans in the middle class who will have to pay a tax under an individual mandate that is to begin in January, he said. The average amount will be $1,200.
The business community is concerned about the employer mandate, saying it will mean fewer jobs and employees working fewer hours.
But Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., when asked for his reaction, said that the Affordable Care Act is already helping tens of thousands of South Dakotans get better health insurance coverage. In October, many more will be able to obtain coverage through new health insurance marketplaces, he said.
“We need to continue to implement the health care law to further expand health insurance to the uninsured, self-insured and others who currently can’t get it or can’t afford it,” Johnson said.
Before the law was enacted, the United States was the only industrialized country in the world without a national health care strategy, he said.
Thune said delaying the entire package would allow Congress time to propose alternative solutions rather than the massive expansion of government — a one-size-fits-all approach — that is the Affordable Care Act.
Medicaid is an example of where the states could be more involved in making decisions regarding customized programs that better fit their populations while also saving money, he said.
“There are better ways to do this,” he said.
A June Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, the GOP letter points out.
“Opposition to your health law is growing, and it will continue to grow as more Americans realize that the law is built upon broken promises and will result in higher health care costs and more taxes,” the letter to Obama reads.
Meanwhile, a House Republican leadership proposal to split the farm bill into two parts – one covering the nutrition (food stamps) title and the other covering farm programs – is not a preferable approach but if it helps move it through the House and to a conference committee with the Senate version “more power to them,” Thune said in the conference call.
Thune has expressed his disappointment with the farm bill process, saying leaner and more effective programs are needed. He has introduced legislation that would lower the cost by $50 billion without hurting those who need the most help.
Asked for his comment on the proposed split – which published reports have indicated has a low level of support – Johnson said: “The House should stop playing games with the farm bill.
“The bipartisan Senate farm bill would pass the House with Republican and Democrat votes if (House) Speaker (John) Boehner would bring it up in the House for a vote,” he said.
Farm groups are expressing concerns about splitting the farm bill. It would be a disservice to farmers, ranchers, rural residents and consumers, said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson.
It would also break new ground. Thune said the programs have been linked together since the 1930s when the first farm bill was implemented.
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