Ex-Policy Aide Emanuel Says No Concerns About IRS in Health Care

Former White House health policy adviser Ezekiel Emanuel said Republican concerns about the IRS’s role in administering President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law are overblown.

The Internal Revenue Service will be limited to certifying income levels to determine eligibility when people apply for health-insurance subsidies, Emanuel said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.

“No person,” Emanuel said, “should be worried that somehow the IRS is going to get anything -- more information that they don’t already know on people or release it in any way.”

Emanuel, now a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said the scandal over IRS scrutiny of anti-tax groups has no bearing on the agency’s role in enforcing the Affordable Care Act.

Successfully getting underway one of the key features of the law -- the health insurance exchanges that will offer coverage for people who currently don’t have insurance -- will depend on generating public enthusiasm, particularly among healthy young people, Emanuel said. That group tends to have lower health expenses and their participation helps keep insurance rates down.

Exchange Advocates

“We have to get the country talking about the exchanges, people being aware of it,” Emanuel said. That demands prominent advocates, he said, suggesting “a bunch of doctors and nurses, people who the American public trust.”

Some of those young people without insurance are less-educated members of minority groups whose parents don’t have insurance and that’s “a tough demographic to go after,” he said.

“You really have to go after their mothers, because their mothers want them to have coverage, their mothers want to protect them, and they’ll listen to their mothers,” said Emanuel, crediting the idea to his brother, Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

The exchanges are scheduled to begin Oct. 1 and Emanuel said an early marker of success will come during the second year of operation.

“Is the buzz around the exchanges, I got -- I have good choice, they’re easy to navigate, and the subsidies are good?” he said.

Higher Enrollment

While the Congressional Budget Office predicts about 7 million people will sign up for insurance during the first year, “what you really want to see is 10 million to 15 million people by the end of the second” and premiums “flat for a couple of years.”

Emanuel also lauded a report from Medicare trustees showing the health insurance program for the elderly will remain solvent an additional two years, until 2026, as the health-care law helps control costs.

“One of the things that’s been lost in all the conversation is the fact that medical inflation has actually been moderating over the last few years,” Emanuel said. “That’s very good news for the country.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.