Debate Over Health Reform Soon To Change Gears, Expert Predicts

LAWRENCE – The author of a forthcoming book on federal health reform who is scheduled to speak at a public forum here Thursday said repealing the law will be difficult regardless the outcome of next week’s election.

John McDonough, who was recruited by the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, to serve as a senior advisor to the committee Kennedy chaired as it worked on the Affordable Care Act, will give the keynote address at the Sunflower Foundation-sponsored forum, which is scheduled from 8:15 a.m. to noon at the Oread Hotel. McDonough currently is a policy fellow at Hunter College in New York City.

In an interview with KHI News Service, McDonough said after next week’s elections it no longer will be enough for opponents to simply call for the repeal of “Obamacare.”

“Let’s say there is a Republican sweep of Congress, both branches, and there is a robust conversation next year about repealing it. At some point very quickly, it’s going to come down to, ‘OK, so what do we repeal and what do we not repeal,'” McDonough said.

Like other reform supporters, McDonough said he believes that the more people know about what’s in the law, the less they want to see it struck from the books.

For example, he said people he talks with rarely know the law contains a bipartisan initiative to curb the abuse and neglect of the elderly or “far reaching and aggressive” measures to prevent Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

“There is an awful lot in this law that people don’t know about that if they knew about they would say, ‘Well, what’s wrong with that,'” McDonough said.

Billie Hall, chief executive of the Sunflower Foundation, said the purpose of the forum isn’t to debate the merits of the law. Rather, it is to help Kansas health care providers and consumers better understand how specifics of the law will affect them.

“This is the law of the land and it’s affecting all of us. There is a lot at stake and we want people to be prepared,” Hall said.

Before McDonough’s presentation, a panel of Kansas officials, providers and health policy experts will discuss the law from various perspectives. Panel members will include:

— Marcia Nielsen, vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

— Sandy Praeger, Kansas insurance commissioner.

— Andy Allison, executive director, Kansas Health Policy Authority.

— Dr. Jen Brull, president of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians.

— Sharon Homan, vice president for public health, Kansas Health Institute.

— Susan T. Sherry, deputy director, Community Catalyst, a nonprofit organization based in Boston, Mass. The group advocates for transformation of the health care system

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