Republicans Reignite Elusive Repeal Goal in 2014 Resolution

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As Democrats coalesce around social issues ahead of the 2014 midterms, Republicans are doubling down on Obamacare. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) used the weekly Republican address to lay out the Republican New Year’s resolution: repeal Obamacare.

“The law is not living up to the promises made by its supporters, and it is questionable whether the law will meet its fundamental purpose — to significantly expand health insurance coverage,” Cochran said. “Five million Americans have been kicked out of the health plans that they liked and were promised they could keep.”

Cochran’s own constituents are facing higher insurance costs, and have been denied access to their doctors, the Senator explained. On top of that, the enrollment data is murky at best. There is no information about who has enrolled, and whether it is the previously uninsured, or the 5 million who lost coverage because of law. Further, there is little information regarding who has paid. All of this causes Cochran to be “skeptical” of an improving enrollment numbers.

Robert Laszewski, the President of Health Policy and Strategy Associates Inc., a health consultancy, is worried about who has paid so far as well. Laszewski recently told the Washington Post that only “about 50 percent have paid.” He is not panicking over the situation yet, but it remains a major challenge for the law. Cochran continued that a law not keeping its most fundamental promises, “should be repealed.” There is Republican introduced legislation to do so, and it should be taken up.

“We should go back to the drawing board and draft commonsense, bipartisan legislation that will work better for all Americans, without spending billions of taxpayer dollars to support these failing policies,” Cochran stated. He added that in keeping with the New Year, “we should resolve to help make our health care system more user-friendly and affordable.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is also starting the New Year by advocating repeal. Writing for Fox News, Rubio explained that he is worried American taxpayers will be on the hook for the bill if enough healthy people do not use the exchanges for insurance.

Although Rubio focused most of his attention on promoting a piece of legislation he has introduced to prevent “taxpayer’s exposure to a bailout for insurance companies,” he placed this goal in the larger context of repeal. “Obamacare’s damage can’t be prevented forever, unless the law is repealed and replaced with market-based reforms that will make health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans,” Rubio wrote.

However, former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Tevi Troy pointed out in the New Republic that repeal will still beyond the reach of Republicans. In his prediction for 2014, the form Bush administration employee said that, “Republicans will be pleased with their election gains in the House and Senate, but will also realize that, even with their political victory, they cannot repeal the ACA while a lame duck President Obama remains in office.”

John Z. Ayanian, M.D., M.P.P., professor of internal medicine and director of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan, raised a similar concern as he looked forward to 2014. He was not as optimistic as Troy that Republican victory is imminent. “If Democrats retain control of the Senate, ACA implementation will continue largely as planned. In contrast, if Republicans control both the Senate and House in 2015, Republicans and moderate Democrats in Congress will agree to change several features of the ACA,” Ayanian said.

He outlined loosened requirements for essential benefits, reduced penalties and subsides and a repeal of the medical device tax. The real fight for Ayanian is in 2016. “Because President Obama will veto a full ACA repeal, its two core components — Medicaid expansion in 25 or more states and subsidized private coverage for most currently eligible households — will be preserved until the 2016 Presidential election.”

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