WASHINGTON—Republican repeal of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law would take away personal freedoms and put power back in the hands of insurance companies, the administration's top health official said Tuesday.
House Republicans have scheduled a vote next week to repeal the law, calling it a job-killing mandate that raises costs all around and promotes government intrusion in decisions that should be left to individuals and doctors, business owners and regulators at the state level. [See photos of the healthcare protests.]
Previewing the administration's counterattack, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said new benefits under the law have freed millions of Americans from worry that they'll lose or be denied insurance, made it easier for small businesses to sponsor coverage for their employees, and provided more affordable prescriptions for seniors on Medicare.
"The new law is giving people more freedoms and more choices," Sebelius told reporters. "Repeal really takes away all of those freedoms and shifts power back to the insurance companies."
While the repeal push is likely to win in the House, it appears headed for a dead end in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where leaders have vowed to block it. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on healthcare.]
Sebelius said repeal would not only increase the number of uninsured, but also add to the federal deficit. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that tax increases and spending cuts in the sweeping legislation more than offset the cost of expanding coverage to some 30 million uninsured, slightly reducing the federal deficit over the next 10 years.
"I am actually feeling more optimistic now than during the debate to pass the bill," Sebelius said. "Across the country people are beginning to see how the new health reform benefits them and their families. It's becoming clear that some of the assertions made by opponents of the law are just flat-out wrong."