One Year Later, the Healthcare Battle Continues on Capitol Hill

With Democrats in control of the Senate and Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, a battle royal is shaping up on Capitol Hill over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – aka the healthcare reform law.   The house has already passed a bill that symbolically repeals the law, and each chamber is holding hearings – the Senate Democrats to sing the praises of healthcare reform and the House Republicans to point out what is wrong with it.   Named “Repealing The Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”, the legislation passed the House and is expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate.  “The ‘job killing’ charge is ‘demonstrably ridiculous’:  The GOP’s ‘farcical’ claim that healthcare reform will cause job losses is ‘transparently false,’” according to Steve Benen, writing in a Washington Monthly article.

Although polls show little change in Americans’ understanding of the law, Democrats see the GOP-driven debate as giving them another opportunity to tout the bill’s benefits.  Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research, says that strategy could be particularly effective with women, a critical voting group.  “They’re the healthcare voters and the healthcare decision makers,” she said.  Lake warns that Democrats need to shift the dialogue from how the law impacts the federal budget to stories about real people and how the new law has helped them.  “You win women back by telling them that if their kids have asthma and it’s a pre-existing condition, they won’t be covered anymore,” she said.  The law’s symbolic repeal, according to Lake, is “the first sign of tension that Republicans face of how do you keep the tea party base and still appeal to independent women who were the key swing voters in 2010 and will be again in 2012.”

President Barack Obama suggested in his State of the Union speech that he is open to fixing some parts of the Affordable Care Act.  “President Obama outlined a vision for our nation’s future that includes key American Medical Association priorities, such as lowering healthcare costs through medical liability reform, improvements to the new health reform law and investments in biomedical research,” said AMA president Dr. Cecil Wilson.  Additionally, Wilson is pleased that the president acknowledged that certain improvements should be made, such as eliminating the 1099 filing requirement that requires businesses to file a form with the Internal Revenue Service for every vendor with which they have had at least $600 in transactions.  The president stressed that he will not turn back the clock completely. “What I’m not willing to do…is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition,” he said.

One group that is applauding the symbolic repeal of the healthcare law is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and has pledged to fight government regulations that it believes will challenge American competitiveness.

In the recent “State of American Business”, Chamber president Thomas Donahue said “Workers who have been banking on employer-based coverage when they retire are being told not to count on it. And as premiums rise, thanks in part to the law’s new mandates, many companies are thinking about ending their employer-based plans, and moving workers into government-run exchanges.  By mid-December, HHS had already granted 222 waivers to the law—a revealing acknowledgement that the law is unworkable. And, with key provisions under challenge in the courts by states and others, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.”

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