House GOP debates health-care repeal

David Gura Jan 18, 2011


Kai Ryssdal: After taking last week to mark the events in Tuscon, the House of Representatives started its debate on repealing the health care law today. The bill’s not going anywhere in the Democratically controlled Senate.

But the discussion is a start for the GOP in what it’s really trying to do: go after the health care law bit by bit.

From Washington, Marketplace’s David Gura takes a look.

David Gura: I asked Thomas Scully to handicap tomorrow’s repeal vote. He ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for President George W. Bush.

Thomas Scully: I don’t think repeal is going to succeed, but I do think there will be a lot of efforts at modest rollbacks, delays of some of the spending and other things, over the next couple of years. And eventually, I think some of them will succeed.

He says later this week, opponents will go through the whole law, looking for ways to change it.

Henry Aaron is with the Brookings Institution. He predicts lawmakers will propose several discrete bills in both houses of Congress, based on what they’ve heard from constituents and lobbyists.

Henry Aaron: In a bill as large and complicated as the health care reform bill is, there are individual provisions that are more popular, and there are some that are less popular.

So, what are they going to target?

Aaron: The ones that strike me as in the most serious jeopardy are those relating to the requirements that people do certain things.

Require people to buy insurance, require businesses to insure workers. But Aaron says opponents could let the courts decide those issues and try another approach.

Aaron: What one might call ‘the thousand cuts strategy.’

They could tie up funding by arguing the deficit prevents more spending, Scully says. They could end up saying:

Scully: When the deficit gets under 3 percent of GDP, or 4 percent or 5 percent, then we’ll start handing out the goodies.

But is there a risk here for opponents? That, by going through the law again, with a fine-toothed comb, they could improve it? And make it harder to repeal down the line?

Scully: You can debate whether it’s better or worse. It certainly will be politically more defensible.

Scully says parts of the law don’t take effect ’til January 2014. And there’s a big election before then.

In Washington, I’m David Gura for Marketplace.

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