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Health Care Repeal Effort Fizzles, Focus Turns To States

This week, the new leadership of the House of Representatives made good on their campaign promise to bring repeal of the health law up for a vote as their first legislative priority of the 111th Congress.  The House passed HR 2 without proposing anything to take its place, despite the repeal effort facing certain failure in the Senate. While repeal is highly unpopular with voters who do not want the insurance reforms and consumer protections now enshrined in law taken away from them only months after being enacted, recent polling data also shows that not only are voters opposed to repeal, but a significant segment of voters believe that the law does not go far enough. The increasing support for the law among voters was reflected by this week’s vote in Congress: of the 13 Democratic Representatives who voted against health care reform last March and are still in office, only 3 voted for repeal this week.

As provisions of the law go into effect, more and more Americans are starting to see the Affordable Care Act impact their everyday lives. This includes the 1 out of every 2 Americans that a recent Department of Health and Human Services study concluded may have preexisting conditions -- conditions which would allow insurance companies to deny coverage if the law were to be repealed. HHS also recently released new data citing doubled enrollment in the preexisting condition insurance pools over the past month  -- and these newly covered Americans would see their health security taken away if implementation of the law does not continue to move forward. The Congressional Budget Office reported earlier this month that repeal would cost American taxpayers up to $230 billion over the next ten years, increasing the deficit just as many of the same opponents of the law claim the deficit as a top concern. And it’s clear not only that repeal won’t create a single job, but that the loud assertions by opponents that the law is a “job killer” are simply false. The 1.6 million jobs that opponents claim the CBO predicts will be lost are in reality jobs held by seniors who would be able to retire because their health care will cost less.

State legislators also took a lead role this week in voicing strong opposition to the repeal effort. The White House rounded up some of the comments from state lawmakers denouncing repeal and urging their state delegations to vote against it. Here are just a few:

  • Sen. Jack Hatch (Iowa): “Before they vote, they need to think about the Iowa mother who can now get coverage for her 3-year old son who has severe asthma, a pre-existing condition; the Iowa cancer survivor who now no longer has to worry his insurance company will cut off his coverage due to an arbitrary lifetime limit; and the tens of thousands of young Iowa men and women who now can get coverage on their parents’ health care plan.”
  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona):  “I strongly urge every member of Arizona’s congressional delegation to stop the political games, stand up for Arizona families and vote against the Repealing Patients’ Rights Act.”
  • Sen. Tim Mathern (North Dakota): “All of us need to tell Congress to move on and give families freedom from the anxiety of medical cost bankruptcy and family stress from health care problems. Don’t repeal what we have – build on it to make it better.”
  • Sen. Karen Keiser (Washington): “Going backward is not an option. For small businesses, seniors, families and our most vulnerable communities, we simply cannot afford repeal."
  • Sen. Nan Orrock (Georgia): “Georgians want, need, and deserve quality affordable health care that cannot be taken away... I remind our Georgia Congressmen to think about the people who sent them to Washington, people who want and need health care coverage, and protection from insurance industry abusive practices.”

In the coming weeks, as repeal fades from view, the spotlight is set to shine even more brightly on the states. Anticipating this shift, former Senate Leaders Tom Daschle (D) and Bill Frist (R) announced this week that they would be teaming up to send the message that a focus on implementation of the law at state level is essential. Sen. Frist urged elected officials in both parties to focus on implementation of the law at the state level, stating clearly his opinion that the Affordable Care Act was now “the law of the land” and “the fundamental platform upon which all future efforts to make this system better... will be based.”

This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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