POLITICS: Repealing preform was hot topic at the Republican convention
GOP leaders emphasize the need to repeal ACA
President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, took a heavy beating last week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. But those delivering the hardest blows weren’t the two politicians whose names will top the GOP ticket in November.
In accepting his party’s nomination for president, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney barely mentioned healthcare in his nearly hourlong speech at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. A night earlier, vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) drew applause when he panned the Affordable Care Act in his acceptance speech. But his remarks were almost immediately criticized by pundits and Democrats for providing a misleading depiction of the reform law’s Medicare provisions.
Meanwhile, the harshest criticism for the Affordable Care Act came from other Republican lawmakers attending the convention who repeated the same message throughout the week: The entire healthcare reform law must go.
One of those politicians was Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), an orthopedic surgeon who began the week railing against the 2010 law when he served as the keynote speaker at a healthcare policy luncheon in Tampa sponsored by the American Action Forum, a Washington-based conservative think tank.
Barrasso said he has denounced the law more than 70 times on the Senate floor. One of the biggest flaws in the law, he said, is that it provides “17 million people with a Medicaid card but puts no money into the law that can train doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses and others” who would care for those patients. On the night before the convention started, Barrasso told Modern Healthcare that he believes it’s possible for Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling this summer that the law is constitutional.
“With a new president and control of the Senate by the Republican Party, it will take place,” Barrasso said of repeal legislation, which has passed twice in the Republican-led House of Representatives but has gone nowhere in the Democratic-controlled upper chamber.
“Mitt Romney has said he would sign that. We’re going to use reconciliation to repeal it in the Senate, but we need the outcome of this election, which really makes a difference,” he said. “The Supreme Court may have ruled that it’s not unconstitutional, but this healthcare law is still unworkable; it is very unpopular, and for our nation, it’s unaffordable.”
The reconciliation Barrasso mentioned would allow the Senate to make changes to the current law through a budgetary process. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), another orthopedic surgeon on Capitol Hill, similarly called for repeal when he served as a panelist at a health policy breakfast discussion in Tampa.
“From a repeal standpoint, we understand that the bill that was put into law now doesn’t work,” Price said. “It doesn’t work for anybody in the system—whether it’s patients or doctors or employers or employees or state governments or the federal government,” he added. “What is a must is that it has to be repealed.”
Repealing the law is an objective that Romney mentioned in his acceptance speech Aug. 30 and that the GOP adopted in its official platform on the convention’s first day. That agenda also proposes a massive redesign of the Medicare program that would allow patients to choose between traditional fee-for-service Medicare and private health insurance plans.
As chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, Ryan proposed this latter concept—known as a premium-support model—in his budget proposals for fiscal 2012 and 2013 that passed in the House but went nowhere in the Senate.
But while Ryan certainly is one of Washington’s loudest cheerleaders for premium support, the Wisconsin Republican made no mention of it last week in his acceptance speech. Instead, he tailored his Medicare comments to fit with his criticism of the president and the reform law.
“You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the healthcare takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn’t have enough money,” Ryan said on Aug. 29 to an enthusiastic crowd at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“They needed more. So, they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars funneled out of Medicare by President Obama,” he added. “An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed—all to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for.
“The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it,” Ryan said.
FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, released a report the day after Ryan’s speech that noted about $415 billion of those cuts will come in the form of reduced Medicare payments to hospitals, not from recipients’ benefits. This also was a point that Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Budget Committee, emphasized from a “war room” in Tampa set up by the Democratic National Committee and Obama for America on the morning of Ryan’s speech.
“Romney would now restore some of the overpayments that Medicare was making to private insurance companies and others,” Van Hollen said after a news conference. “And since seniors pay a share of the overall cost of Medicare through premiums and co-pays, they will now have to pay more—right now.”
While Romney and Ryan mentioned the ACA briefly in their speeches, other lawmakers spent the week heavily criticizing it.