POLITICS

Obamacare back in GOP crosshairs

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's health care law is back in Republicans' legislative crosshairs as the GOP-led House weighs a bill that would impose new requirements on the administration.

Despite White House opposition, the House was expected to approve the measure on Friday as emboldened Republicans kick off an election-year challenge to the troubled 4-year-old law. The GOP's laser-like focus on "Obamacare" reflects the party's certainty that the law's well-known problems will pay political dividends in November's midterm contests.

"These measures are a part of a broader effort to protect the American people from the consequences of this disastrous law," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters on Thursday. "The president doesn't want anyone to see what's taking place with this law. But the millions of Americans being hurt by it, frankly, have a right to know."

The goal of the Affordable Care Act is to expand coverage to tens of millions of Americans who lack insurance, lower health care costs, increase access to preventive services and eliminate some of the pre-existing conditions that insurance companies have used to deny coverage. The health care website HealthCare.com got off to a calamitous start on Oct. 1, followed quickly by widespread reports of canceled policies and higher premiums.

To date, more than 2 million Americans have signed up for coverage through the federal marketplace covering 36 states and exchanges in 14 states. At the same time, at least 4.7 million people who buy their own insurance were told their policies would no longer be offered this year because they failed to meet the standards of the law.

Republicans who steadfastly opposed the law seized on Obama's proclamation - repeated by many Democrats - that if you like your health care, you can keep it, using the law as a political cudgel. The House voted more than 40 times last year to repeal, replace or undo parts of the law, and Republican leaders signaled they will not relent this year.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., would require the secretary of health and human services to notify an individual within two business days of any security breach involving personal data provided to the government during health care enrollment.

The administration, in objecting to the measure, said it already has implemented safeguards to secure personal information and notify consumers if a breach occurs.

"When consumers fill out their online marketplace applications, they can trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards," the administration said in a statement Thursday.

Pitts complained about the administration's objections.

"In opposing this common-sense bill, the self-proclaimed 'most transparent administration in history' has officially sided against greater transparency," he said in a statement. "Why not embrace the opportunity to be proactive and prudent, prepared for potential security risks?"

The Democratic-led Senate has no plans to consider the bill.

The House had planned to vote on another bill that would require the administration to report weekly on the number of visits to the government health care website, number of Americans who applied and number of enrollees by ZIP code, as well as other statistics. The administration has opposed this measure, saying it has been providing information on enrollments, and the added requirements would force it to hire new staff.

A Republican leadership aide said the House did not have enough time to complete the bill. The House was expected to complete its legislative work by midday Friday.

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