GOP Leaders: Smaller Adjustments to Health Reform Law Most Likely
On Wednesday, House Republican leaders said they plan to use their new majority to follow up on their pledge to repeal or defund the federal health reform law, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The lawmakers said they intend to take the next several weeks, before the GOP takes control of the chamber from Democrats in January, to map out their complete agenda for the overhaul.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "The American people were concerned about the government takeover of health care," adding, "I think it's important for us to lay the groundwork before we begin to repeal this monstrosity" (Abrams, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/3).
He said the law has the potential to eliminate jobs and bankrupt the country, which "means that we have to do everything we can to try to repeal it and replace it with common sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health care insurance" (Heavey, Reuters, 11/3).
Selective Revisions More Likely Than Full Repeal
House Republicans and health policy experts acknowledge that efforts to repeal the law will be nearly impossible because Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate and there is little chance of avoiding a presidential veto, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
However, observers have noted that Republicans have several options for achieving their goals. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), a leader on health care, said, "This is not a 'Jeopardy!' question where there is just one right answer," adding, "House Republicans are committed to repealing the existing ObamaCare bill."
Barton said that Republicans "are going to do a three-pronged approach," adding, "We'll do repeal, we'll do a reform bill, we'll do a defunding bill" (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4). According to The Hill's "Healthwatch," House Republicans are planning to conduct a repeal vote early next year as a symbolic gesture to supporters in the election (Lillis, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/2).
The GOP then plans to focus on eliminating or altering unpopular portions of the law that they say would raise health care costs, the New York Times reports. Some of those provisions that they are likely to re-examine include:
- The individual mandate;
- The 1099 tax-reporting provision;
- An excise tax on high-priced insurance plans;
- The establishment by 2014 of state-based health insurance exchanges; and
- $500 billion in spending reductions for Medicare, particularly Medicare Advantage plans.
According to the Times, Republicans also said they would attempt to reduce the budget for federal enforcement of the reform law and related rules. However, they noted that some popular provisions would be worth retaining, such as insurance protections for consumers with pre-existing conditions (Pear/Abelson, New York Times, 11/3).
Obama Suggests Law Revisions and Compromise
On Wednesday, President Obama said that he is willing to work with the new House Republican majority to revise the health reform law, agreeing that certain provisions could be scaled back, Politico reports.
During a news conference at the White House, Obama said he would "be happy to consider" Republican proposals on modifying the law, such as the tax-reporting requirement, which he described as burdensome and "counterproductive" (Haberkorn, Politico, 11/3).
However, Obama warned against revising popular provisions, such as financial assistance for seniors with their prescription medications and guaranteed coverage for people with medical problems (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.