Price: Healthcare Major Issue in Fall Election

Tuesday, 23 Mar 2010 09:09 AM

By John Rossomando

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Repealing the controversial healthcare reform bill and replacing it with a better alternative will be a central part of the GOP message going into the fall midterm elections, a key House Republican says.

The bill passed late Sunday night in a 220-212 vote after weeks of arm-twisting by the White House and Democratic leadership that saw former opponents such as Reps. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, vote for the Senate legislation. Every Republican, including Louisiana Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, who supported the original House bill in November voted against the measure.

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“I think what we need is a repeal it and replace it campaign,” said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a major Republican player on healthcare reform and chairman of the House Republican Study Committee. “So many of the things they put in place are just egregious and not acceptable to the American people.”

Price told Newsmax that aspects of the bill, such as its requirement that those with preexisting conditions receive coverage, will increase the costs of health insurance premiums and would be modified if Republicans regain control of Congress.

Most Republicans favor using high-risk insurance pools such as those found in some states and in HR 3400, an alternative healthcare reform bill Price introduced last summer, instead of the mandate in President Obama's plan.

“We believe the solution is instead of having the government dictate what kind of coverage you must have to allow individuals the opportunity to pool together with millions of others, so you get the purchasing power of millions and actually get what insurance is supposed to do,” Price said. “That is, spread risk and the benefit being you get to select the insurance you want for yourself and your family, and not having the government telling you what you are going to do.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner told NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday he would follow an incremental approach to modifying the healthcare reform law should he win the speaker’s job after the November election.

“We will do it on a step-by-step basis,” Boehner told NBC’s David Gregory. “I’d have a bill on the floor the first thing out to eliminate the Medicare cuts, eliminate the tax increases, eliminate the mandate that every American has to buy health insurance and the employer mandate that’s going to kill jobs.”

Should Republicans win control in the fall, they still would face Obama in the White House and likely Democratic filibusters in the Senate, but Price believes popular anger will require action to fix the law.

“The people will want that we move actively to corral the abuses that were put in place,” Price said. “I’m all for repealing what they put in yesterday and replacing it with positive, patient-centered reforms … that do so in a way that leaves doctors and patients in charge of healthcare decisions, not the federal government.”

Republicans probably would take Newt Gingrich’s example from the welfare reform debate in the 1990s and continually hammer Obama into granting concessions.

A Republican repeal-and-replace effort would focus on allowing ordinary Americans to buy the insurance they want in a way that solves problems related to portability, he said. The GOP, however, would not change parts of the law letting those 26 and under remain under their parents’ health insurance.

Democrats are counting on the bill’s passage to energize their base in the fall, but political analyst Larry J. Sabato believes Republicans will be more energized than Democrats.

Excitement over healthcare reform could result in a high voter turnout in excess of 40 percent, said Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Politics Center, who added that he expects Republicans to gain between 27 and 38 seats.

Healthcare “ has pumped up Republicans and tea party activists, and they were already much more intense than the Democratic base constituency,” Sabato said. “I would have to say overall Republicans gain more.
“I would say Republicans, conservatives and tea party people feel so strongly about this in opposition that they will turnout in disproportionate numbers.”

Republicans need to stress that they have healthcare reform alternatives in their campaign because many Americans are unaware they exist because the unpopular Obama plan has overshadowed them, Sabato said.

“They need to make sure that people understand they have ideas too,” he said. “And they need to take the time and the money to outline those alternatives.

“It’s not just not about saying no; you have to be able to say, ‘Now here is our new, better alternative.’”

But Price said Republicans face an uphill battle publicizing their healthcare reform ideas because of the mainstream media’s refusal to convey them to the public.

“We just have to do it in whatever venue we have available to us as actively, as continuously and repeatedly as we are able to do so,” Price said.

But he said Obama’s failure to get healthcare reform passed until now shows that some of the Republican message has gotten across and the results of the 2010 elections consequently will be much more favorable for the GOP than the 2008 that swept Obama into power.

Sabato said whatever gains Republicans make will set the stage for the 2012 presidential election.

Although Price and Sabato see healthcare as the defining issue for the fall campaign, the National Republican Congressional Committee is taking a more nuanced approach, making healthcare one of many issues it plans to focus on.

“There is no catch-all for every race, but healthcare is just one thing along with the stimulus and a bunch of other votes that Democrats are going to have to answer for what they have done and how they have voted,” said John Randall, the committee's e-director. “Healthcare is just one of many choices the Democrats are going to have to defend as we get closer to the 2010 and 2012 elections.”

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