Year ahead: Health law under attack on all fronts

Year ahead: Health law under attack on all fronts

By Julian Pecquet – 12/18/11 06:00 AM ET

President Obama’s healthcare reform law will be under attack on every conceivable front next year.

Its first life-or-death experience lies in the hands of the Supreme Court, which could potentially strike down the Affordable Care Act as early as June. Even if the high court upholds the law, it could remove its individual mandate — prompting a bitter debate in Congress and within the administration on how to go forward without it.

Next obstacle: the November elections. Every Republican presidential candidate has vowed to repeal the law, through executive orders and by signing repeal legislation. Republicans are expected to keep control of the House, and with Democrats defending 23 seats in the Senate, the GOP has a shot at gaining the 60-member majority needed to get anything through.

Leading up to the elections, House Republicans will continue to put Democrats on the defensive as they repeal the law in bits and pieces.

Legislation to remove the long-term-care CLASS Act could get through the Senate after the administration declared the program isn’t sustainable. And a House bill to repeal the law’s independent payment advisory board, one of the few provisions to control costs, has at least 12 Democratic co-sponsors.

States will also be major players in the healthcare fight. State officials have until the end of the year to prepare for insurance exchanges if they don’t want the federal government to run them starting in 2014.

In other news, the deficit-cutting supercommittee’s failure once again paints a giant target on the backs of government healthcare programs. Lawmakers in both parties have vowed to prevent automatic cuts called for by the so-called deficit trigger, which would likely leave Medicare and Medicaid to bear a bigger share of the cuts.

Finally, the White House will fight tooth and nail for its nominee to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. President Obama’s first pick, Don Berwick, never even got a nomination hearing.



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