Health-care reform in GOP cross hairs
Republicans plan an all-out assault on the new health-care reform law, which they see as the biggest symbol of over-reach by Democrats. President Obama's veto pen is the first defense.
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In response, Democrats aim to amplify features of the new law that are popular with the public. These include:Skip to next paragraph
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• Helping seniors with prescription-drug costs. Seniors who have run up against limits for coverage of prescription-drug costs – the so-called "doughnut hole" in the 2003 Medicare prescription-drug law – started receiving monthly checks in June (not to exceed $250 this year) as a first step toward eliminating the gap altogether.
• Allowing young adults to stay on a parent's insurance plan until age 26. This provision began to take effect with new insurance plans on Sept. 23, 2010.
• Making 4 million small businesses eligible for tax credits worth up to 35 percent of the cost of providing health insurance to employees.
• Cutting premiums for the government's new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, mandated by the health-care reform law, in a bid to encourage more enrollment. The federal program is slated to continue until a national ban on insurance companies' discriminating on the basis of preexisting medical conditions takes effect in 2014.
"Frankly, I don't think working Americans will stand for a Republican crusade to take away the benefits and protections in the new health-reform law," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa, who chairs both the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (one of three panels that drafted the Senate version of the bill) and the Appropriations subcommittee that funds it. As such, he's in a key position to block House GOP efforts to defund the bill or void key provisions.
"Republicans are seriously misreading this election if they claim a mandate to drag us back to the days of out-of-control health care spending and insurance company abuses and discrimination," he added in a statement. "Ordinary Americans will not stand for it, and neither will I…. I will fight any misguided attempt to defund the law or repeal its consumer protections."
Did midterm voters repudiate reform?
Obama cautioned Republicans not to read the midterm elections as a repudiation of the health-care law. The electorate, in fact, gives mixed signals over health-care reform, including its effect on job creation, according to a poll released Nov. 8 by Rasmussen Reports. Just 26 percent of voters say repeal of the health-care law would help create jobs, 36 percent say repeal would not create new jobs, and 38 percent are undecided.
When asked what should be the No. 1 priority of the new Congress, Republicans cite repeal of health-care reform (36 percent) and cutting federal spending (29 percent), while Democrats (63 percent) overwhelmingly favored passing a new stimulus bill to create jobs, according to a Gallup poll of American adults released Nov. 3. But 12 percent of Democrats also cited repeal of health-care reform as their top priority for lawmakers.
"These partisan differences highlight the challenges that face the lame-duck Congress ... as well as the new Congress that will take office in January," says Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, in a statement.