Despite Republican takeover in House, healthcare reform repeal unlikely, AAHSA experts say

Share this content:
LeadingAge VP Barbara Manard
LeadingAge VP Barbara Manard

Although the full impact of Tuesday's dramatic election results will take some time to grasp, providers should not fear a repeal of the new health reform law any time soon. Experts pointed this out Wednesday during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. 

Opponents of many of the law's provisions might attempt to trigger technical  "corrections" that could derail some of the initiatives, but Democrats still control the Senate and the White House, AAHSA legislative experts reminded members at the general session on the last day of the conference.

"We know the Republicans [who took control of the House] plan to have a vote on repeal out of the gate in January, but we think that's as far as it will go," said Barbara Gay, AAHSA's director of advocacy information. "We don't see the repeal strategy working for the next two years."

She added that repeal opponents, who are overwhelmingly Republican, could attempt to "de-fund" aspects of the reform law in an effort to halt it.

"For the same reasons, we don't see de-funding legislation working," Gay noted. 

But "technical corrections," that could add various hurdles to implementation of various facets of the law could slow progress in many areas, she added.

Barbara Manard, vice president of long-term care at AAHSA, pointed out that the second half of the healthcare reform law contains lots of meaty provisions related to innovative healthcare demonstration projects. Many of these provisions are not controversial.

"We have a roadmap, processes to rapidly bring new innovative ideas forward," she said. 

AAHSA's advocacy specialists in Washington say "it remains to be seen" whether Democrats will struggle to pass legislation during the upcoming "lame duck" session of Congress. The alternative would be waiting to work with a more heavily Republican Congress in the new year.

"There are a few things Congress has to get done," Gay added, referring to the passage of a sweeping spending bill. She said passing another extension of the Medicare Part B therapy caps exception process will be a key point of emphasis for providers. 

Regardless of what happens by the end of the year, providers should be optimistic and work diligently toward their advocacy goals, said AAHSA Senior Vice President of Advocacy Suzanne Weiss, who is retiring after 25 years with the group.

"There is no such thing as a 'bad member of Congress' or a 'bad Congress,'" she explained. "No single political party is good for all of our members all of the time. AAHSA never writes off a session of Congress because of who's in control."