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Senate leaders vow to block repeal--but a Virginia judge declares mandate to buy health insurance unconstitutional

By: Jeremy Los

January 20, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) -- House Republicans have stuck to their campaign promises and passed a measure to repeal the newly established health care bill. In what was a strictly symbolic vote, since the repeal will most likely die in the Democrat-controlled Senate and would not be signed by President Obama, the House Republicans have sent a strong message to the nation that they mean business.


Local Republican representatives Brian Bilbray, Darrell Issa, and Duncan D. Hunter fell in line with conservative cohorts, as every House Republican voted to pass the repeal. On the other side of the aisle local Democratic representatives Bob Filner and Susan Davis voted against the repeal.


“The health care hypocrites went all the way, voting to repeal the entire health care bill — without offering alternatives, without dialing back their anti-government rhetoric or changing the bill's outrageous official title ("Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act"), and without repealing the generous federal insurance benefits they receive and have worked so hard to deny to others,” states Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager of CREDO Action.


CREDO has launched a campaign asking voters to urge Republicans, including local representatives, to give up their federal healthcare coverage if they voted to repeal healthcare benefits for others. But so far, the GOP members seem content to keep their health coverage.


If the entire healthcare reform law were to be repealed, it would leave 49 million Americans once again without insurance and allow insurance companies to go back to denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, including children. A provision allowing parents to keep children on their policies until age 26 would also be repealed, among other provisions.


Upset with the cost of the recently enacted healthcare reform bill and the potential job losses , the Republicans in the House have decided to fight back against what they see as an injustice. Some have objected to costs, others to the mandate requiring all Americans to purchase insurance if not already covered. But the figures cited in dispute.


“With a cost of over $1.2 trillion dollars, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains individual and small business mandates, across the board tax increases, and over half a trillion in cuts to Medicare… I believe we can accomplish these same important goals without the small business mandates and tax increases. It is for this reason that I support repealing this legislation and replacing it with real solutions that will help all Americans access quality health care,” states Rep. Duncan D. Hunter in a letter to constituents.


But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget last week reached an entirely different conclusion, finding that the Republican plan to repeal the healthcare law would drive up federal deficits by $230 billion by 2021.

A poll done by the Associated Press on indicates that Republican voters, however, are losing their fervor for an all out repeal of the law, as only 49% of Republicans support the repeal now, compared to 61% immediately following the elections. Among Democrats, 77% want to keep healthcare reforms, while only 16% favor repealing the law.


Among all voters surveyed, more want to keep healthcare reforms (48%) than repeal it (40%).


Local advocacy groups have come out against the repeal, stating that it will only continue the abuse and swindling of needy consumers.


“Our Board voted to oppose repeal of the Affordable Care Act because of the irreparable harm it will do to individuals and families, as well as to our economy,” said Jan C. Spencley, Executive Director of San Diegans for Health Care Coverage (SDHCC), “We cannot go back to a system that denies needed health coverage and access to health care to so many San Diegans.”


With a nation still mired in a recession, our elected officials in the House have staked their reputations and invested time to vote on a dead-in bill to make a political point. With the repeal now passed in the House, it heads to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed not to allow a floor vote. With the Democrats still in control of the Senate the repeal will most likely meet its demise, but the debate will undoubtedly continue, as Republicans will look to take “Obamacare” apart piece-by-piece.


Democrats now have to switch from an offensive mindset to staunchly defensive when it comes to health care. They will be looking to exploit the notion that the Republicans look to start from scratch again, putting more families at the mercy of insurance companies.


In an op-ed piece in the Huffington Post Sen. Barbara Boxer stated, “We cannot go back to a system that leaves so many of our citizens without access to life-saving care. Health care reform provides hope to families who have been let down by this broken system - hope that our country can do better.”


Even the strongest advocates of healthcare reform acknowledge that the healthcare reform law is far from perfect—for example, failing to rein in insurance premiums that continue to be hiked up by some major insurance companies.


The door remains open on across the aisle collaboration on improving healthcare reforms, as many powerful Democrats including the President have stated that they are willing to work with Republicans to refine plans for improving healthcare. An outright appeal seems unlikely, however, even as House Republicans to stick to their campaign promises that brought them to power.


Even if Congress fails to pass a full repeal, however, some portions of the law face lega challenges. A Virginia judge has ruled that the provision requiring people to buy healthcare coverage is unconstitutional; ultimately that issue will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.


If you wish to voice your views to your elected representatives, you can find their contact information in the Sound Off! section of our Citizens Action Center.




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