House votes to repeal health-care reform: What happens now?
Though the House has repealed health-care reform, it won't be repealed by the Senate, meaning the effort is virtually dead. But House Republicans can still try to dismantle the law by other means.
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The new Republican majority in the House aims to set committees to work investigating 12 issues to include in new health-care reform legislation, many focused on lowering the costs of health care.Skip to next paragraph
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These include: cutting regulations that discourage job creation, lowering health-care premiums through competition, preserving options for patients to keep health plans that they like, and creating affordable options for people barred from insurance because of preexisting conditions. These are issues on which Republicans hope to find some bipartisan support.
Points of contention
But other proposed committee assignments are more divisive, both between and within party ranks. One is the charge to reintroduce legislation to limit medical malpractice claims and cut the costs of defensive medicine – a move strongly opposed by trial lawyers, a key constituency for Democrats. Another is to find ways to ensure that public health-care funds are not used to pay for abortions, including providing “conscience protections for health-care providers.” The language over abortion rights nearly scuttled heath-care reform in the last Congress, as social conservatives broke ranks with their Democratic leaders.
Yet another flashpoint is entitlement reform. Republicans propose requiring committees to find ways to pay for health reform that do not impose new tax burdens or “accelerate the insolvency of entitlement programs.” Current law anticipates a $500 billion cut in Medicare. Panels are also tasked with giving states more flexibility to administer Medicaid programs. Instead of a mandate for people to purchase health insurance, Republicans propose “incentives to encourage personal responsibility for health-care coverage and costs.”
A leading GOP criticism of health-care reform is that it pays for itself by raising taxes and fees, not by lowering the cost of providing health care. By focusing attention on discrete cost issues, GOP leaders hope to find a consensus on alternative legislation.
"We will use every tool at our disposal to dismantle this law and develop a better path forward," said Rep. Fred Upton (R) of Michigan, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement after Wednesday’s vote.
"We will undertake rigorous oversight of the law as it stands, examining sound alternatives through a transparent, inclusive and deliberative process. We must focus on lowering costs, which the American people wanted but the Democrats ignored," he added. "We will also look to our governors, who are demonstrating great leadership and innovation, but who are shackled by federal red tape and mandates."
Affordable care is joint goal
Democrats say they are open to reforms, especially those that lower costs. Moreover, any good ideas that come out of the next months of committee effort could be used to improve existing law, not just replace it, they add.
“We have a bill that expanded coverage, put new regulations in place, but it’s not clear it cuts the cost of health care,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “That’s a criticism you saw from left, right and center.”
“If the debate moves in that direction, there’s room to form some kind of bipartisan support for more stringent cost controls,” he adds. “But on the other hand, both parties also have a stake in posturing going into 2012 elections.”