Sebelius: Repeal of health reform a 'huge step backward'

Talk of fighting the healthcare reform has been in the air since the president first proposed the action. Nine months out, Republicans are talking about a mostly symbolic repeal, or emasculating the reform bit by bit. In response, the administration is fighting back to defend the overhaul, and in a press telebriefing today, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came out swinging.

"There's no question that a repeal would be a huge step backward that we can't afford," she said.

Sebelius said she found it "so surprising that members of Congress want to go back to the status quo that wasn't working for Americans and small business owners. "Going back," she said, "would deny coverage to 32 million Americans and add a trillion to the deficit in the next decade. She also said that a repeal would put power back in the hands of insurers.

"Some of the assertions made by the opponents of this [healthcare reform] legislation are just flat-out wrong," she said.

In an effort to get the word out that Americans are benefiting from the law, HHS will make state fact sheets available to spell out how repealing the law would affect consumers by state. Tomorrow, Sebelius said, she and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will send a letter to Congress describing what Americans were getting out of the reform.

Despite all the push back, Sebelius said she's feeling more optimistic than ever. "As the misinformation is dispelled and people connect with what is really part of the early benefits and future possibilities with the new market in 2014, we're going to see increased enthusiasm," she said.

Given that we have a "fairly broken system now," she said, "what we can't afford is doing nothing." She cited insurance rates that rose so high in the last decade that people were forced to drop coverage. Taxpayers, she said, are picking up that bill, with sicker workers and paying an additional $1,000 per person on their insurance premiums to absorb the cost.