Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Mid-Term Elections and Healthcare Reform

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Even if Republicans win majorities in Congress this fall, it's unlikely that they will be able to repeal the recently passed healthcare reform legislation, Dennis G. Smith, managing director of the Medicaid practice at Leavitt Partners, said during a keynote presentation this morning at IAPP-IARP-TAWPI’s Healthcare Payments Automation Summit (HPAS) at the Boston Sheraton.

“Nobody is talking about the Republicans winning veto-proof majorities,” Smith said, adding that even if the Republicans did win big, repealing the legislation would only put the country “right back where we started, with the same problems. And when I travel around the country, employers are telling me that they are fed up with the current healthcare environment.”

Against this backdrop, significant changes in the healthcare reform law “really depends on whether Obama pivots, and does what Clinton did in the 1990s,” Smith said. “But Obama is far more ideological than Clinton was.”

So what changes can Republicans push through Congress if they were to win majorities as a result of the mid-term elections? One tool available to them is the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to veto regulations. They also can cut appropriations for certain mandates. “Even entitlements are subject to appropriations,” Smith notes. Congress can also demand a budget summit, which has occurred about every 12 years, Smith said.

But healthcare industry stakeholders shouldn't wait on Congress. “If you expect to be on the winging team when healthcare reform goes into effect, now is the time to prepare,” Smith concluded.

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