SALT LAKE CITY — With a new Congress set to convene Wednesday, Republican leaders have pinpointed the repeal of the recently approved Affordable Care Act as one of their top priorities.
Incoming lawmakers have already filed a bill that would undo health care reform, and they plan to vote on it as early as next week.
While Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch agrees with the plan, United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she believes repeal would be "a bad idea for America."
"House Republicans are listening to the American people and are rightly moving forward to dismantle a law that is a threat to liberty itself," Hatch said. "I support not only a full repeal, but also a targeted approach to take down the pillars holding up ObamaCare."
Senate Democrats, however, have noted that they will block any attempt to repeal the new law because they believe it was based on popular provisions that are just now beginning to take effect.
"What we're seeing already in the first nine months is that the new law is giving people more freedom and more choices," Sebelius said during a media conference in Washington on Tuesday. "It is beginning to free families from some of the worst abuses of insurance companies."
Previewing the Obama administration's counterattack to the emboldened GOP, Sebelius said that new benefits under the law have freed millions of Americans from worry that they'll lose or be denied coverage, while making it easier for small businesses to sponsor a policy for their employees.
She said repeal "takes away all of those freedoms and shifts power back to the insurance companies."
In Utah, Sebelius said that 11,600 young adults have been beneficiaries of the new law, gaining permission to remain on a parent's insurance plan until age 26, however, many of the Utah-based insurance plans already allowed that stipulation for transitioning young adults.
More than 1.6 million people in Utah with private plans might again have to adhere to lifetime limits imposed by insurance companies, a provision that was done away with in the new law. If a repeal is successful, insurance companies would not be required to cover preventive care, and approximately 262,000 seniors on Medicare in Utah would be required to pay office-visit co-pays and would not be eligible for paid annual check-ups, Sebelius said.
And 16,321 individuals on Medicare would again be subject to the "donut hole," or meeting a deductible for prescription coverage each year. The new law distributes reimbursement for such costs.
Hatch said the "unconstitutional, $2.6 trillion government takeover of our nation's health care system infringes on people's liberty, expands government to record levels and does nothing to stop skyrocketing health costs."
He has introduced legislation that "takes aim at the unconstitutional individual mandate and the job-killing employer mandate" and is confident such an idea will garner bipartisan support in this Congress.
Contributing: Associated Press