Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Job Killing Health Care!

I suppose it should come as no surprise that one of the first orders of business of the new Republican controlled House of Representatives is to attempt a repeal of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act.

What is surprising is that they're so cynical about its prospects that they've actually entitled it, Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. I'm surprised they didn't mention the fictitious "Obamacare" in the title. In fact, no fewer than 4 outright repeal bills were put forward on January 5th alone - the first day of the new congress. The Job-Killing bill, put forth by newly minted House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-VA), is only the most talked about due to its absurd title and the fact that its the first of these asinine and enormously Sisyphean efforts to reach the House floor. It has 181 co-sponsors, all Republican. Two additional bills attempt to defund all or part of the Affordable Care Act without actually bothering to attempt repeal - without funding the law would be unenforceable. 

Neither repeal nor defunding of the legislation is going to happen. A Democrat-controlled Senate likely won't even bring anything the House passes up for a vote, let alone actually vote for it and pass it along to President Obama. If somehow it did pass the Senate, President Obama would, of course, veto the legislation.

So this is all symbolic posturing by Republicans to show that they're against the most important piece of legislation passed in the past two decades. As I said at the time of the health care reform debate (pre-dating this blog), the Republicans will find themselves on the wrong side of history with regard to health care reform.

The law is the "law of the land" according to former Republican House Majority Leader Bill Frist who is working with former Senator Tom Daschle to help implement aspects of the reform. This doesn't mean Frist is in favor of the law in total, but that he believes the Republicans should be trying to modify the existing law rather than repealing it whole cloth. The American public appears to agree with him. Despite the hue and cry from the right. Americans appear to favor even more substantial health care reform over repeal by a 2:1 margin.

I agree with Mr. Frist. The law is not perfect and should be amended to improve upon the legislation. How to do that is what should be debated in the halls of congress, not absurd and time-wasting repeal efforts. Fortunately, at least two of our legislators see things this way as well, which is why I want to highlight two bills.

John Fleming (R-LA) has put forward H.R. 118 - To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to permit a State to elect not to establish an American Health Benefit Exchange. I don't necessarily agree with this particular attempt to change the law. Without nonprofit insurance exchanges, the insurance costs to the currently uninsured would almost certainly be higher than with exchanges. But at least Mr. Fleming is attempting to work within the current law in ways he sees as improvement.

Likewise, Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) has put forward H.R. 191 - To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to establish a public health insurance option. This clearly represents the opposite direction - making the health care reform law even stronger. No doubt this has no chance of passing a Republican controlled House so it also represents a symbolic effort on Rep. Woolsey's part (and her 46 exclusively Democrat co-sponsors).

I'll get into the details of the strengths and weaknesses of health care reform at a later time (including the "job killing" aspects), but suffice it to say the Republicans aren't going to let this piece of legislation be enacted without a lot of negative press and the Democrats aren't going to cave on their biggest legislative victory in decades. It makes a titillating topic for the pundits, but it's ultimately meaningless noise since little or none of this legislation has a chance of being enacted.

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