Health Care Reform Alterations Face Long Odds

The contentious debate surrounding repealing the 2010 health care reform law has been a constant since the new Congress began in January 2011. Several aspects of the law have been challenged in both the legislature and the legal system.

Threats from the GOP in Congress have ranged from repealing health care altogether to simply withholding funding for the program. Here is an examination of current proposals to change the health care reform law.

Outright Repeal

The House of Representatives, led by new Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), voted to repeal the entire health care reform law in late January. MSNBC reports the vote was 245-189 along party lines, except three Democrats sided with Republicans.

Even though the bill passed the House, Democrats still control the Senate, plus it would need President Obama’s signature. The chances of the entire repeal are not likely. ABC News reports a majority of Americans are opposed to the law: 54 percent of those polled claim the new law will hurt the economy instead of help it.

Medicare Advantage

Part of the health care reform law did away with Medicare Advantage. The Wall Street Journal reports $132 billion would have been funneled from the program to help pay for the law over 10 years. Medicare Advantage is like Medicare itself but is offered by private companies with Medicare’s approval.

A bill in the Senate, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would save Medicare Advantage, as he claims it saves money for seniors. In March 2011, Hatch sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlining his disappointment with her assertion a bill passed in the House would take away from seniors’ benefits. Republicans feel cutting benefits to 10 million seniors is over the top and want to see this piece of the legislation repealed.

Defunding the Act

Rep. Cantor stated in February that Republicans will simply defund the provisions of the health care law going into effect this year. A spending bill introduced into the House would simply withhold funding for the legislation. Politico reports the Tea Party members of Congress back this proposal in order to prevent the federal government from spending money.

The continuing resolutions used to keeping funding the government haven’t dealt with the issue of health care reform yet. Funding the federal government would require certain bills to be passed instead of just funding departments on previous levels.

Health Care Requirement Lawsuit

A Florida judge blocked the part of the law requiring all citizens to have health insurance or face fines. CNN reports the judge ruled the part requiring all people to have some kind of health insurance is unconstitutional and violates their right to privacy. The Obama administration filed an appeal of the decision made Jan. 31.

Another suit in Virginia also takes the privacy issue to task, which will ruled upon in May. The case will likely go all the way to the Supreme Court, where aspects of the health care law will be decided. Boehner applauded the decision and stated the law should get a quick review despite the appeal.

1099 Reporting Requirement

One obscure aspect of the health care reform law includes a requirement by small businesses to report any purchases made over $600 from another company. The point of the measure is to raise around $19.2 billion in capital through extra income taxes. The Hill reports both parties support doing away with the 1099 reporting requirement.

The Senate is looking to repeal this part of health care reform because it would place a larger burden on small businesses. While it may pass the Senate, the House has no desire to take up the legislation any time soon, according to California HealthLine.

Summary

Overall, a repeal of the entire law is not likely to happen. Even as both chambers of Congress debate various bills to alter the health care reform law, it would take a lot of compromising to get both the House and Senate to agree on conflicting bills. Beyond that, President Obama still needs to sign the legislation.

Republicans can get sneaky and add portions of the repeal onto legislation as amendments. If President Obama wants something critical passed, he may have to compromise when he signs a bill into law but then has to give up something on health care.

Another factor to consider would be additional lawsuits in federal court. If the requirement provision is struck down as unconstitutional, insurance companies and states may be emboldened and try for an outright repeal in the Supreme Court.