Republicans have declared that their vote to repeal President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is just the first step in overhauling the nation’s health care system. The House passed legislation on Jan. 19 to repeal the existing health care law easily, by a 245-189 vote.
Republicans say they intend to pass legislation that would “replace” the existing law. Their first salvo was fired Jan. 20, when Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced a replacement bill that would allow Americans to cross state lines when purchasing health insurance.
The bill has more than 60 cosponsors, including Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee David Camp (R-Mich.). Upton and Camp say they also want to pass legislation that would allow for association health plans and limit medical liability lawsuits.
In a Jan. 20 news conference, Camp and Upton, joined by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, said that though it’s too early to tell the form the bill will take, it is likely that Republicans will attempt to enact legislation through several smaller bills, rather than one large package.
Construction industry employer groups have long said they would support incremental steps like association health plans and limiting medical liability.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate have blasted the GOP for voting to repeal the law. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that he won’t bring up comparable legislation in the Senate.
So one could argue that the legislation won’t go anywhere, and even if it did, it would be very unlikely that the president would sign anything but the most minor “tweaks” to the law.
House Republicans say that they will take the new bills through the normal legislative process, not skipping any steps, like Democrats did with the president’s bill. That means hypothetically, there would be opportunities for Democrats to weigh in during subcommittee and committee hearings and markups. But the first hearing, scheduled for the week of Jan. 24, is intended to highlight the shortcomings of the existing health care law, according to the lawmakers at the news conference.
If the GOP were serious about implementing substantive, thoughtful changes and giving small businesses more of an opportunity to voice their opinions about what they would like to see in a health care bill, shouldn’t they be focusing on that, and not bashing the efforts of the previous Congress and the president?
As it is, the current law still stands. Numerous polls have shown that Americans would rather focus on jobs and the economy than health care at the moment. What do you think?