A ‘Sec­ond Opin­ion’

GOP Sen­a­tors launch cam­paign against re­form

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Matthew Do­Bias

As the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to en­act pro­vi­sions of the health­care re­form law, ef­forts to pre­vent its adop­tion are grow­ing stronger. Repub­li­can law­mak­ers in­tend to frame the new re­form law as a bud­get-bust­ing pack­age of mis­guided pro­grams and costly man­dates that will in­crease the cost of in­surance cov­er­age and do lit­tle to drive down the cost of care as a bat­tle with the White House over mes­sag­ing be­gins to heat up.

In many ways it is a reprise of the ar­gu­ments that played out on Capi­tol Hill over the year-and-a-half health re­form de­bate. But Repub­li­cans say they are em­bold­ened by a se­ries of re­ports from govern­ment agen­cies and Wall Street an­a­lysts that project the law cost­ing bil­lions more than first pre­dicted while re­strict­ing a per­son’s abil­ity to see a doc­tor when needed.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans last week un­veiled a mul­ti­pronged cam­paign to pub­licly counter the White House’s es­tab­lished mes­sag­ing ma­chine just ahead of the sum­mer­time con­gres­sional re­cesses and the Novem­ber elec­tions.

Loosely re­ferred to as the “Sec­ond Opin­ion” project, se­nior sen­a­tors, in­clud­ing Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky, Jon Kyl of Ari­zona and John Bar­rasso of Wy­oming, plan to use floor speeches, press con­fer­ences and other pub­lic events to strike back against the over­haul pack­age now be­ing im­ple­mented, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior lead­er­ship aide.

Repub­li­cans in the House are in lock­step with their col­leagues in the Se­nate. On May 13, House Mi­nor­ity Leader John Boehner—in a let­ter sent to HHS Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius—railed against the roll­out of the new law, say­ing that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has ig­nored dire warn­ings that the re­form ef­fort will cost far more than first thought.

“We’re go­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can to make sure this law never, ever goes into ef­fect,” Boehner told re­porters on Capi­tol Hill. “We’re go­ing to rip out ev­ery pos­si­ble man­date and tax in­crease that they’ve got con­tained in this bill.”

Boehner said the bill re­mains un­pop­u­lar among a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans. “They want it gone,” he said. “They want it re­placed with com­mon­sense re­forms that will lower the cost of health in­surance and pro­tect Amer­i­can jobs.”

The strong state­ments come on the heels of a Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice re­port that es­ti­mated that the law could cost $115 bil­lion more than pre­vi­ously pre­dicted be­cause of a num­ber of new grant pro­grams, agency costs and scores of new ini­tia­tives where fund­ing is ex­pected though not spec­i­fied.

Fur­ther, GOP law­mak­ers said they were sim­i­larly an­gered over a let­ter sent from Se­be­lius that touted the early im­ple­men­ta­tion of a num­ber of re­form ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing ex­panded cov­er­age pro­grams and tax breaks for small busi­nesses. “Now I’ve seen my fair share of pro­pa­ganda, but this let­ter must have been writ­ten in an al­ter­na­tive uni­verse,” Boehner said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), how­ever, cham­pi­oned the nascent re­form

Roberts: Facts and state­ments “are stub­born things.”

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