GOP Mulling Tactics To Address Health Reform Law in Congress, States
Having won control of the House in Tuesdayâs midterm elections, Republicans will aim to withhold funding for initiatives within the federal health reform law and to pursue hearings and oversight investigations to hinder implementation of overhaul provisions and the Obama administration's communications with the public when the next Congress begins in January, Kaiser Health News reports.
Although many Republicans have voiced intentions to repeal the overhaul, the party has recognized that as an unattainable goal because of President Obama's veto power. In the meantime, most GOP members are determined to compromise the law by working to limit funding for its various provisions. In addition, some Republicans are preparing other strategies against the overhaul, including Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who could become the next chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Barton has pledged to:
- Force HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and CMS Administrator Donald Berwick to submit to regular questioning regarding the reform law;
- Examine whether the Obama administration withheld cost estimates of the law before it was enacted;
- Investigate if Sebelius inappropriately silenced insurers from using the overhaul to justify rate increases; and
- Consider if the administration improperly used government funding on brochures promoting improvements to Medicare Advantage.
In addition, some Republicans plan to work with James Gelfand -- director of health policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- to launch 31 possible investigations, including one related to the new HHS Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (Serafini, Kaiser Health News, 11/2).
Reid Signals Openness to 'Tweaking' Health Reform Law
RepublicansÂ also boosted their numbers in the Senate, though Democrats still control theÂ chamber's majority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) won a highly contested bid for re-election in Nevada.
On Wednesday, Reid said he is willing to make changes to the reform law in light of the Republican gains in the elections.
Reid said, "If there's some tweaking we need to do with the health care bill, I'm ready for some tweaking," adding, "But I'm not going to in any way denigrate the great work we did as a country in saving Americans from bankruptcy because of the insurance industry bankrupting them"Â (Charles/Wutkowski, Reuters, 11/3).
GOP Governors-Elect Weigh Anti-Reform Strategies, Might Have More Power Than Congress
The reform law also faces threats outside of Congress. On Tuesday, a number of Republicans won gubernatorial elections, many of whom oppose the health reform law, according to Kaiser Health News.
For example, Republican Sam Brownback, governor-elect of Kansas, called the law "an abomination," while Bill Haslam, Tennessee's Republican governor-elect, said it is an "intolerable expansion" of federal power and a "reminder of the incredible arrogance of Washington."
As governors, the Republicans might work to slow the law's implementation in their states while the GOP prepares for the 2012 presidential election. The governors-elect also could:
- Influence congressional delegations to repeal or change parts of the law;
- Seek waivers from various provisions;
- Veto state legislation related to the law; and
- Appoint individuals who also oppose the overhaul to crucial state health positions.
Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University, said, "If Republican governors were to get together and say 'we're going to derail this train,' they could do much more to reverse the national health (law) than an effort to repeal it in Congress," adding, "The governors could, without defying federal law, simply implement it inefficiently, throw sand in the gears."
However, some provisions in the law require that the federal government step in to implement changes if states do not.
In addition, GOP governors might find it hard to resist federal funding offered through the law to expand Medicaid and set up or improve other state health programs (Appleby/Carey, Kaiser Health News, 11/3).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.