OK. Now What?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Barry, my friend the CPA, is undoubtedly smiling. Barry formed a Tea Party of one, almost twenty years ago. His goal was to always have divided government. As long as the Democrats or Republicans were restrained, were kept from controlling both Houses of Congress and the Presidency, there would be some level of gridlock. Only the most important legislation could be passed. The moment either side had real power, all Hell broke loose. Last night was a good night for Barry and the many people who long for a smaller government.

This blog, however, is about health insurance and health care, not politics, so I will leave the list of winners and losers to others. Politics do play a huge role in how health care is delivered in this country and an even larger part in the foreseeable future. And health insurance, health care, and our system of entitlements had equally large roles in last night’s results. They are intertwined. The Republicans took the House last night. They almost captured the Senate. How will this impact health care?

The short answer may be “Not Too Much”.

President Obama came to office in the midst of a financial meltdown. He had three paths in front of him – a Crisis, a Disaster, and an Issue. He faced a divided country and had the chance to invest his political capital into only one. The Crisis was the economy and unemployment. The Disaster was Americans fighting and dying in two wars. The Issue was health care and specifically the uninsured and underinsured of our country. He chose the issue and spent the majority of his first two years and political good will pushing through an unpopular, poorly designed piece of legislation.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act succeeded in energizing the opposition. Even centrist Democrats and Republicans were outraged by this combination of government overreach and intellectual dishonesty. Democrats representing swing districts, like John Boccieri, were pressured into supporting a bill that almost single-handedly caused their defeat.

Republicans have campaigned against the PPACA. Some have implied, some have even promised, to repeal this legislation. Can this legislation, passed only seven and a half months ago, be reversed? And, more importantly, do the Republicans want to?

NO and NO.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not going to be repealed or reversed anytime soon. Oh, I’m sure Speaker-designate John Boehner will run a bill through the House. It will be great political theater. And, it will be risk free. The legislation won’t get through the Senate, and even if it did, it would be vetoed by the President.

I sincerely doubt that the Republicans would want to repeal this legislation. This is a fundraising bonanza. Campaigning against PPACA is far more profitable than solving the problems that necessitated the law.

So, we have a bad bill and the real possibility that cynicism may rule the day. Plus, we have yet to mention the insurers who have already spent millions to comply with the new rules and regulations. I firmly believe that the insurers have devised a path to real success under a government run health plan where they provide supplementary coverages. The major insurance companies would then have no desire to repeal the law.

We are quickly approaching the next calendar triggers of the health care legislation. It is possible that the Republican lead House of Representatives, far more interested in extending the Bush era tax cuts than anything else, might tackle meaningful reform in early spring. In a yet to be exhibited act of political maturity, the House could even draft a bill to limit and refine the PPACA. Such legislation could be passed by the Senate and signed by the President. It is possible. I leave the question of probability to you.

We had a major governmental change last night, a massive swing from the left to the right. What has changed in regards to the delivery of health care, the affordability of health insurance and the access to needed medical care? Alas, not much.