Babies, Bathwater and the “Repeal and Replace” Message

I’m not going to wade into partisan politics here because the Healthcare Leadership Council has a long-standing policy against endorsing political candidates.  I am concerned, though, about the “repeal and replace” message, relating to health reform, that a number of candidates are using as a focal point for their campaigns.

First, we can say with virtual certainty that repeal of the Affordable Care Act isn’t going to happen.  Not only does the President still have veto power, but it is also highly unlikely that repeal legislation could muster 60 votes to get through the U.S. Senate.

But beyond the political realities, there’s also a question as to whether it’s an effective message or even the right thing to do.

Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, one of the nation’s premiere experts when it comes to collecting and analyzing public opinion, made some excellent points on this subject in an interview with Marilyn Werber Serafini that appeared in both The Washington Post and Kaiser Health News.  McInturff argues that it’s not logical to insist that all facets of the new health reform law is bad.

He said, “If you’re for repeal and replace, it means you have to say that every single element of health care is something you disagree with, or at least allows your opponent to characterize your position that way.  That seems to me to not make much sense.  Number two, people are conscious that we fought for a year about this.  And so telling people that we’re going to start totally from scratch and do it again, there’s a certain kind of weariness about the process.”

Even if repeal of health reform was a feasible possibility, would Americans really want to roll back assistance for small businesses to help provide private health coverage for their employees, or new measures to help more people get preventive care and reduce the chronic disease costs that drive health spending skyward? 

The fact is that health reform does need to be revisited.  The measure passed by Congress, among other flaws, isn’t strong enough in its delivery reform and payment reform aspects and relies too heavily on the Medicaid program to reduce the uninsured rolls.  But we don’t want to throw out the important progress that has already been achieved and, as McInturff assets, it’s not a particularly effective message to say that we should.