GOP-led House votes to repeal health reform law
■ Democrats say the legislation will die in the Senate, where they hold a slim majority. More targeted repeal efforts are expected to follow.
Washington -- The House on Jan. 19 voted 245-189 to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the first step in a promised series of attempts by Republicans to weaken or undo key elements of the national health system reform law.
Stating that the health reform statute will raise federal deficits, increase joblessness and lead to a government takeover of the health care system, House Republicans closed ranks to force consideration of a measure they titled "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." GOP leaders had said repeal would be their first priority after taking back control of the House in the November 2010 midterm elections. Three Democrats joined every Republican in voting for repeal.
Democrats warned that the repeal would undo legislation that will protect patients from insurance company abuses and provide affordable coverage for those who have none. They cited Congressional Budget Office projections that say health reform actually will lower federal deficits by $230 billion over a decade -- meaning that undoing it would raise deficits by the same amount.
"Democrats have made a firm commitment: that we will judge every proposal that comes before us as to whether it creates jobs, strengthens the middle class and reduces the deficit," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D, Calif.). "The repeal of the patients' rights fails on all three counts."
The repeal legislation is expected to come to a dead end in the Senate, where Democrats have vowed to block floor consideration of any such measure. Republican leaders acknowledge that they do not have the votes to override a certain veto from President Obama.
However, supporters of the repeal said the odds against it succeeding would not dissuade House leaders from forcing lawmakers to go on the record on the issue. "It's the principled thing to do," Rep. Tom Price, MD, (R, Ga.) said during floor debate preceding the vote.
The repeal as written would not replace the health system reform law with anything. House GOP leaders leave that job to several key House committees, which, starting the day after the vote, will begin putting together alternative reform provisions that should go in its place.
The repeal itself, although considered largely symbolic, is only the first item in the Republican playbook against the health reform law. Lawmakers plan to follow up with more targeted measures attempting to defund or invalidate central provisions in the statute, while opponents in state governments pursue litigation aimed at declaring the reforms unconstitutional.
The American Medical Association said rolling back the entire statute would be the incorrect way to fix its perceived shortfalls. "The AMA does not support repeal of the Affordable Care Act because it includes expanded health coverage, insurance market reforms and initiatives to promote wellness, which are in line with AMA policy objectives," said AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, MD. But during the law's implementation, the Association will continue to advocate for legislation expanding medical liability reform, restructuring a Medicare payment panel that could lead to doctor rate cuts, and eliminating a business reporting requirement that would affect some physician practices.