CHN: Repeal of Health Reform Top Priority on Republican Agenda

On the campaign trail Republicans pledged to do away with the historic health reform legislation passed last March, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. With a new majority in the House and control of the legislative calendar in that chamber, one of their first orders of business in the 112th Congress was scheduling a vote to repeal the legislation. The vote was originally scheduled for January 12. But, with the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona on January 8 in which six died and 14 were wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), that vote was postponed. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) recently indicated that the vote on H.R. 2, Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, will now take place next week.
Republicans contend that the Affordable Care Act is too costly and undermines job creation. However, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Affordable Care Act reduces the deficit, whereas the repeal bill, H.R. 2, would increase the deficit by $230 billion through 2021. The Center for American Progress finds that 250,000 to 400,000 jobs would be lost annually if health reform is repealed. This is due to the fact that health reform repeal would lead to an increase in medical spending and many of these costs would fall on businesses. Facing higher health care costs employers are likely to hire fewer people, lay workers off, and pay lower wages. See the Center’s full report here.

With 242 Republicans now serving in the House the repeal bill is expected to pass in that chamber, but it is not expected to move in the Senate, still controlled by the Democrats. However, the repeal vote is only the first tactic in the Republican strategy to dismantle health reform. The campaign to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will include attempts to repeal certain provisions of the legislation, efforts to defund the law and slow its implementation. The new Chair of the House Appropriations Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee, Representative Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), has stated that he will work to defund the Affordable Care Act if Republicans are not successful in repealing the whole legislation. Representative Darrell Issa, Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will also employ his new powers to lead investigations and hearings on the health care legislation that will require the Administration’s response and tie up staff of agencies critical to implementing the new law.

Advocates view the repeal efforts as opportunities to emphasize how the Affordable Care Act is expanding and improving the quality of health care coverage in the United States. Although the Act’s major reforms will not go into effect until 2014, significant improvements have already been implemented during the law’s first year. Seniors who experience a gap in prescription drug coverage, referred to as the “donut hole”, began receiving relief in 2010 in the form of a $250 rebate and in the coming years the coverage gap will be eliminated incrementally. Young adults are now able to remain on their parent’s health care plan until their 26th birthday. Insurance companies can no longer drop coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, nor are they able to set lifetime limits on coverage. Temporary insurance programs, often referred to as High Risk Pools, were created so that individuals who are currently uninsured due to pre-existing health conditions are able to obtain more affordable coverage until the health exchanges are established in 2014. Large-group insurers are now required to spend 85 percent of premium dollars on health care delivery (small group insurers are required to spend 80 percent). A more comprehensive list of the health reform law’s first year improvements was created by Families USA. More information on specific areas of the law is available on Families USA’s Health Reform Central website. An implementation timeline is available on Community Catalyst’s website.