Arizona Congressman Ron Barber sponsored legislation that would tie the penalties for people who don’t obtain health insurance to complete functionality of the problem-plagued healthcare.gov website, saying it is a matter of fairness.
Barber said. “I am angry that this website is not functioning – and until it is completely fixed, it is simply unfair to threaten people with fines. Southern Arizonans and all Americans deserve the time to choose the health care that is best for them and their families.”
Barber is an original cosponsor of the Health Care Access Fairness and Penalty Delay Act, which was introduced in the House. His sponsorship of the legislation comes several days after Barber asked Attorney General Eric Holder to launch an immediate in-depth review of the companies responsible for the troubled healthcare.gov website.
Under the legislation, when the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services certifies that the website is fully operational, individuals would have an additional 90 days to enroll in a health care plan. There would be a total of 120 days before fines and penalties would kick in.
Barber noted that if HHS officials meet their goal of having the website fully functional by Nov. 30, none of the deadlines in the Affordable Care Act would change. Delays would take effect only if website problems continue beyond Nov. 30.
“It is my responsibility to ensure that before there is any discussion of fines or penalties, the people of Southern Arizona have a website that allows them to easily sign up for health insurance,” Barber said.
In the letter to Holder last week, Barber and four of his colleagues asked the attorney general to “pursue any and all remedies up to and including a refund of any and all monies paid to the contractors for a website that doesn’t work. If the government has purchased faulty or defective services, the taxpayers deserve and should demand their money back.”
As Barber calls for a delay in penalties, across the country Americans are being penalized with the cancellation of insurance policies that Obama administration promised they could keep. A website has sprung up in the last month, Mycancellation.com, where Americans share evidence of the consequences of the roll out. Americans who do not currently have health insurance through their jobs or through Medicare have until Dec. 15 to register for insurance that will go into effect Jan. 1. The net effect is that those who lost their insurance because of Obamacare will now be forced to buy their insurance through Obamacare.
Barber was not in Congress in March 2010 and did not vote for the act. Since he took office in June 2012, he has remained opposed to full repeal of the Affordable Care Act to keep the many benefits of the law, like closing the doughnut hole for seniors, allowing students to stay on their parents health insurance until age 26 and prevent people with pre-existing conditions from being denied healthcare. Barber has supported common-sense actions to fix parts of the law that don’t work for Southern Arizona small businesses, middle-class families and seniors.
Even before the website problems, Barber supported a one-year delay to the employer and individual penalties in the Affordable Care Act. However, even that small move earned the wrath of progressives in the Democratic Party despite the fact that a majority of Americans do not favor the program.