By PETER HANCOCK, The Lawrence Journal-World
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran said Friday that the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," is flawed beyond repair and that it's forcing businesses to look for creative ways of avoiding new requirements that they provide their workers with health coverage.
"The Affordable Care Act is a disaster," Moran told the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce during a breakfast meeting. And while the problems with the new program's enrollment website will eventually be fixed, he said, "the underlying problems of the Affordable Care Act remain."
Moran, a Republican who was elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving 14 years in the U.S. House, acknowledged that many Americans are uninsured and have difficulty affording health care.
"But the plan that was forced through on a straight party-line vote, Christmas Eve (2009), in the Senate is not the approach that is going to work," he said. "This is a mistake."
Under the law, most individuals will be required to have health coverage starting next year. And businesses with 50 or more full-time employees will be required to provide health coverage to their workers. The law defines a full-time employee as one who works 30 or more hours a week.
Moran noted that he had recently toured a warehouse in Lenexa where the owner told him that he'd reached an agreement with another warehouse across the street to swap employees on a part-time basis. "They work here 29 hours a week, and they work there 29 hours a week," Moran quoted the warehouse owner as saying.
"In Parsons, a family tells me they own three Mexican restaurants. They're closing two of the three restaurants so they get less than 50 employees in their total company," Moran said.
He also spoke of people who are now learning that the policies they had been carrying, typically low-cost, high-deductible plans with limited benefits, are being cancelled because they do not meet the minimum standards for coverage under the law, despite earlier assurances from President Barack Obama that nobody who had a policy that they liked would lose it.
"People come to me today, in emails and conversations, saying: 'Jerry, my wife has breast cancer, our policy is cancelled, I don't know what to do,'" Moran said. "My job is to have an answer and tell them what to do, and I don't have one. It bothers me. It's a terrible circumstance we're in. But you can't just waive the wand and make this work."
Moran acknowledged that many Americans cannot afford the cost of health care, and he faulted his fellow-Republicans for not offering a better solution.
"Many Republicans, including me, decry the terrible consequences of Obamacare," he said. "But we ought not fail to recognize there are serious and significant problems for many Americans related to the access and affordability of healthcare."
Moran said he thinks a better solution would be to invest more in community health clinics that offer low-cost treatment for the poor and uninsured. And he cited the Heartland Community Health Center in Lawrence as an example of one that works.
"Those are great opportunities for us to help people who have no insurance and no ability to pay," he said. "That's a different approach than trying to change, all in one fell swoop, the health care delivery and insurance system. In my view we ought to do incremental and common sense kinds of changes."