Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County Republican.
Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County Republican. (Patuxent Homestead)

Rep. Andy Harris used an appearance Monday on CNN's Crossfire to argue that the problems people are facing as they try to sign up for health insurance through Obamacare are only the beginning.

"Some things are just not fixable," said the Baltimore County Republican and Johns Hopkins trained physician who was elected on a platform of repealing the 2010 Affordable Care Act. "Is the health insurance system broken? Yeah it is, but getting the federal government to a one-sized fits all approach is not a great solution."


Harris, among the Republicans who voted against the measure last week to reopen the government and avoid the Oct. 17 debt ceiling deadline, sat opposite Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America. The nonprofit group is a coalition of advocacy organizations, health insurers and pharmaceutical companies that are trying to help people enroll.

"I don't think anyone would sit here and deny frustration with what we saw," said Filipic.

But, she said, the initial few weeks have been comparable with other federal health programs, such as Medicare Part D.

"You see these programs that now are seen as very successful that had very, very rocky starts."

For much of the 30-minute segment, Harris and Filipic argued over federal requirements that coverage offered in state and federal exchanges meet minimum standards, known as essential health benefits. Those benefits, Harris said, represent a one-size fits all approach and are driving up premiums as much as 25 percent on average in the so-called individual market in Maryland.

The benefits include things like emergency services, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorders, prescription drugs, laboratory services and chronic disease management. Filipic said those mandated coverage areas ensure people who are paying for insurance receive a basic level of coverage that hasn't always been available in the individual market.

State regulators had estimated this summer that premiums would increase by as much as 25 percent on average for people buying coverage through the exchanges. However, premiums are only one part of the cost of health insurance and low-premium plans sometimes carry high deductables and other expensive out-of-pocket costs.

The vast majority of Americans are not likely to sign up for coverage through the exchanges.