Can­tor loss makes House ac­tion on health­care un­likely

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Paul Demko

The stun­ning Repub­li­can pri­mary de­feat last week of House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor (R-Va.) has trig­gered up­heaval in con­gres­sional GOP lead­er­ship and even fur­ther re­duced the odds of the House tak­ing up any sig­nif­i­cant health­care leg­is­la­tion be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tions.

Can­tor will step down as ma­jor­ity leader at the end of July but stay in of­fice un­til the end of the year. His de­feat set off a fierce scram­ble among Repub­li­cans seek­ing his post, though it ap­pears the cur­rent House whip, Kevin McCarthy of Cal­i­for­nia, has the edge. The way the power strug­gle plays out could af­fect the lead­er­ship of key health­care com­mit­tees such as Ways and Means and En­ergy and Com- merce. “There is kind of the domino ef­fect,” said Joseph An­tos, a health pol­icy ex­pert at the con­ser­va­tive Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute.

Even though Can­tor took a hard line against the health­care re­form law, tea party con­ser­va­tives ac­cused him of not be­ing suf­fi­ciently anti-Oba­macare.

His vic­to­ri­ous op­po­nent, col­lege pro­fes­sor David Brat, signed a pledge to re­peal the law while Can­tor had not. “The vot­ers in Vir­ginia were pay­ing at­ten­tion to can­di­dates who take a stand against Oba­macare,” said Heather Hig­gins, pres­i­dent of In­de­pen­dent Women’s Voice, a group pro­mot- ing the pledge. “Af­ter tonight, ev­ery Repub­li­can in­cum­bent will be pay­ing at­ten­tion as well.”

That un­com­pro­mis­ing stance could make it dif­fi­cult for House Repub­li­cans to agree on even changes that many fa­vor. Some con­ser­va­tives have been push­ing for a vote on a pro­posal by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) to ex­pand health sav­ings ac­counts, al­low health plans to be sold across state lines and re­strict med­i­cal mal­prac­tice suits. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), chair of the con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee who is now run­ning for the House whip po­si­tion, is a leading sup­porter of Roe’s pro­posal.

But other con­ser­va­tives fear that mov­ing for­ward with any re­place­ment bill would give Democrats a fat po­lit­i­cal tar­get head­ing into the elec­tions, with Democrats able to ar­gue that the GOP pro­posal would take away ben­e­fits people like.

“The tea party folks by and large don’t give a crap about re­place,” said a Repub­li­can health­care lob­by­ist who didn’t want to be named. “They just hate the law.”

Eric Can­tor’s de­feat has set off a scram­ble among Repub­li­cans seek­ing his post.

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