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Health On The Hill: House Passes Health Law Repeal

Republicans in the House delivered on their election-year promise to repeal the health care overhaul law signed by President Obama less than a year ago. Every Republican, and a small handful of Democrats, voted for repeal. Now GOP House leaders are trying to apply political pressure on the Senate to bring the bill up for a vote.  Marilyn Werber Serafini covered the House debate and spoke with Jackie Judd.

Listen to the interview (.mp3)

JACKIE JUDD: Good day, this is Health on the Hill, I’m Jackie Judd. There is breaking news from Capitol Hill. The Republican-controlled House has just voted to repeal the health care overhaul law. Marilyn Werber Serafini of Kaiser Health News is there. Marilyn, give us a sense of the moment when the Republican leadership had this victory.

MARILYN WERBER SERAFINI: The moment perhaps wasn’t as exciting as one might have thought it was going to be. There was one whoop and a light applause and really that was it. And some folks think it has a lot to do with the shooting in Arizona, and the whole debate being toned down a little more than it might have otherwise been.

JACKIE JUDD: Every single Republican in the House voted for repeal. Only a couple of Democrats sided with the Republicans. The gulf was so wide, at some moments when I was listening to the debate, it almost sounded like the two parties were debating different bills.

MARILYN WERBER SERAFINI: Yeah, I think that’s right. In a number of ways, the Republicans and Democrats were making the same arguments but with different spins on them. In some cases, you had the Democrats and Republicans making different arguments. For instance, the Democrats claiming that repeal would cause devastation for regular people who would lose their insurance and benefits that have already kicked in because of the law. You had Republicans claiming that keeping the law would cause a loss of jobs because of the mandate on employers to cover folks or pay a penalty. But you had both making claims regarding budget deficits – it would rise if you did what the other party wanted to do and that you would have increased health care costs. So, the question really is: who do you believe, which studies do you go after? It almost seemed like they weren’t talking about the same bill.

JACKIE JUDD: In terms of what’s next procedurally, the bill, of course, now moves to the Senate. Do you have any sense yet of when that will occur?

MARILYN WERBER SERAFINI: Well, it’s not clear when it technically moves to the Senate, but it really doesn’t matter because the Senate is not expected to even take the bill up. And earlier today, House Republican leaders were almost putting a challenge to the Senate Democrats – because the Senate, of course, is still controlled by the Democrats – and the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said a couple of times today to reporters, “You know, put it out there. You say you have the votes to fight off the repeal, put it up there and let’s count those votes.” But there’s really no question that it’s not going to be an issue in the Senate.

JACKIE JUDD: Marilyn, what does the Republican leadership in the House do next to show the country, voters that they have some alternative plan?

MARILYN WERBER SERAFINI: Well, the Republicans are going to do two things. First of all, they’re going to vote on a resolution tomorrow on the House floor, which will send this process back to the committees. Now, some Republicans in the House have been very concerned that they don’t have a replacement bill already in front of them. Speaker Boehner says that he expects the committees to move efficiently; however, there are many Democrats who believe that the process of sending this back to the committees is simply to tee this issue up for the 2012 presidential election. Many Democrats believe that this is just going to be intensive oversight, in which the Republicans continually hammer the Democrats on this law so that they can hopefully elect a Republican president and do what they really wanted to do in the end and that is to repeal this law.

That said, there are still a few provisions in this law that Republicans may actually have a chance at changing. For instance, there is the CLASS Act, which is a benefit for people who need long-term care services. The way it stands now in the law, adults will be automatically enrolled unless they opted out. The complaint here is that the program won’t pay for itself in the long-run and it will require federal subsidies. This is one of the few issues that some Democrats actually agree with the Republicans on. And so the Republicans are counting on that to hopefully be able to make some changes there. Republicans will also target a provision that’s expected to swamp businesses with a requirement that they would have to issue 1099 tax forms to many individuals and companies that they do business with. This really was an unintended consequence and both Democrats and Republicans believe this would be an un-due burden on businesses. So there are some areas here where we could potentially see some movement, but overall, I think we’re back in the committees, we’re back to intensive oversight hearings and we’re going to be talking about substance, but I think this is going to be a pretty intense conversation.

JACKIE JUDD: Marilyn Werber Serafini of Kaiser Health News from Capitol Hill, thank you.


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