Barletta’s Verify First Act Advances through Powerful House Committee
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee today passed legislation introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) to stop fraud in the distribution of health care tax credits and protect taxpayer dollars.
A 2016 Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report revealed that, under Obamacare, $750 million in taxpayer-funded health care subsidies went to people who did not qualify for those benefits.
Barletta’s Verify First Act, H.R. 2581, would address this problem by simply requiring the Social Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services to work together to verify first that an individual is a citizen, national, or legal immigrant before giving that individual the advanced health insurance premium tax credit.
“Every taxpayer dollar that goes to someone committing fraud is a dollar that is not going to help working families and those who truly need and deserve assistance,” Barletta said. “My bill would fix this problem by verifying that an individual is legally entitled to taxpayer-funded benefits before sending that money out the door.”
Concerned about abuse of taxpayer dollars as Congress considered the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Barletta met with President Donald J. Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan and received assurances from the speaker that the House would vote on the Verify First Act.
The Verify First Act is part of the multi-step process Congress is working through to repeal and replace Obamacare. While the House passage of the AHCA represented step one of this process, Congress continues to simultaneously consider standalone bills, like Barletta’s Verify First Act, to provide targeted relief from Obamacare.
The House Ways and Means today passed two additional bills that complement the AHCA:
The Veterans Equal Treatment Ensures Relief and Access Now (VETERAN) Act, H.R. 2372, enshrines in law that veterans who are not already receiving health insurance through the Veterans Administration (VA) receive assistance to access coverage on the individual market. The bill would provide veterans the certainty that they will continue to have access to health care if they decide not to enroll through the VA.
The Broader Options for Americans Act, H.R. 2579, expands access to health care tax credits for individuals who have lost their jobs and ensures that Americans in similar circumstances who work at churches or other places of worship can access these tax credits.
The House passed the AHCA as a starting point to replace Obamacare with a plan that will drive down costs and allow consumers greater choice of their health care plans.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study released on May 23, 2017 showed that average Obamacare exchange premiums were 105 percent higher in 2017 than average individual market premiums in 2013. Additionally, the study showed that average monthly premiums on the Obamacare exchange market increased from $232 in 2013 to $476 in 2017. In Pennsylvania, average monthly premiums increased from $242 in 2013 to $533 in 2017 – a 120 percent increase.
Aetna recently announced that it is joining the growing list of insurers pulling out of the Obamacare market. Currently, one out of every three counties across the United States has only one insurer.
“Obamacare is failing, and some people will be left without insurance if we do nothing,” Barletta said. “The AHCA is not the final product, but rather a starting point for a better health care plan. Taken together with the standalone bills Congress continues to pass, we are working toward real health care reform that will drive down costs, restore choice, continue protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions so that they cannot be denied coverage, and ensure that Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars go only to American citizens.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will also remove excessive Obamacare regulations to stabilize the health insurance market, increase choices, and lower costs.