GOP Divided Over Health Law Repeal As White House Readies Midterm Push
In the run up to November's midterm elections, President Obama will tout the new health law, hoping the consumer-friendly provisions taking effect this week will help erode ill will toward the overhaul, The Wall Street Journal reports. "Starting Thursday, insurers officially must adhere to about a half-dozen key changes under the law, including eliminating co-payments for preventive services and allowing children to stay on their parents' insurance policy until their 26th birthday. Democrats structured the provisions so they would kick in right before the elections, thinking incumbents would have a tangible achievement to promote on the campaign trail." Americans are still split about 50-50 on the law. "President Barack Obama plans to give a health-care speech Wednesday to highlight the new provisions, with a 'heavy emphasis on people who are already benefiting from the law,' an administration official said" (Adamy and Meckler, 9/19).
The Wall Street Journal, in a separate story: Meanwhile, if they win big in November, House Republicans are planning a "to chip away at the White House's legislative agenda-in particular the health-care law-by depriving the programs of cash. Republican leaders are also devising legislative maneuvers that might have a bigger impact, using appropriations bills and other tactics to try to undermine the administration's overhaul of health care and financial regulations." The GOP hopes to cut funds for new IRS agents called for in the law and to "consider barring spending for a new board that approves Medicare payment cuts as well as on research that compares the effectiveness of medical procedures." Republicans plan on offering a new package of health reforms that would "aim to curb medical malpractice lawsuits, loosen restrictions on selling insurance across state lines and expand high-risk insurance pools to extend insurance to those with a pre-existing health condition" (King and Adamy, 9/20).
Politico: But "[e]xperts - and even some Republicans - say a GOP-controlled Congress next year would have to struggle to erase nearly $1 trillion in health reform spending over 10 years with the flick of a pen. Key parts of the bill, like new Medicaid entitlements, would require free-standing legislation, not merely routine changes during the appropriations process." And without the presidency, Republicans would be hard-pressed to come up with any major change outside of simply using appropriations to limit the impact of the law, since Obama would likely veto any GOP legislation that repeals parts of the overhaul (Budoff Brown, 9/20).
The Associated Press: Republicans "have proposed major changes to workplace coverage, even turning Medicare into a voucher plan. Many prefer small steps that tiptoe around political land mines. Others want a clean start. One of the first acts of a Republican majority would be a vote to repeal what they dismiss as 'Obamacare.' But they haven't said much about what would replace it. A GOP bill rejected by the Democratic-led House last year is the closest thing to a starting point. The Republican plan would cover an additional 3 million people by 2019, compared with nearly 33 million under the Obama health care law. It would lower premiums modestly for many small businesses and for people buying insurance directly. It wouldn't solve the nation's long-term cost and coverage problems" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/19).
Roll Call: Stakeholders are trying to boost candidates who either want to promote or stop the new law. "Some groups indicated they may alter their giving as the election approaches, and it appears likely that the Republicans will be in charge next year. But for now, many of the health care law's most ardent supporters, including hospital groups, the American Medical Association and drug companies, are donating heavily to Democrats who backed the changes. On the other side, the donations of health insurance companies, which helped lead the fight against the health overhaul, are tilted toward GOP candidates who opposed the measure. Medical specialists such as orthopedic surgeons who also found fault with the overhaul are betting much of their campaign money on Republicans" (Roth, 9/20).
ABC News: "Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich lashed out at Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a speech at the Values Voter Summit on Saturday for recently admonishing insurance companies to avoid unnecessarily hiking premiums. 'When Secretary Sebelius said ... she would punish insurance companies that told the truth about the cost of Obamacare, she was behaving exactly in the spirit of the Soviet tyranny,' Gingrich said. Gingrich said Republicans should defund her office, if as he hopes, they sweep back into the majority in Congress after the November elections" (Falcone, 9/18).
The Hill: Christine O'Donnell, the "Tea-Party Republican" candidate for Senate in Delaware, "jumped head-first into the thorny healthcare debate this week, accusing Democratic policymakers of wanting to snuff out the old and infirm because they're expensive to treat. 'Bureaucrats and politicians in Washington think they should decide what kind of light bulbs we use. They even want unelected panels of bureaucrats to decide who gets what life-saving medical care and who is just too old or it's too expensive to be worth saving.' The final reference is to a Democratic proposal to provide Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to physicians who conduct voluntary consultations with patients about end-of-life care" (Lillis, 9/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.