If the Republican Party gets its way, it will repeal President Obama’s health care law wholesale. Mitt Romney’s committed to repealing it, as are the party’s congressional leaders and rank-and-file members on Capitol Hill. That’s the plan if they win big in November — unless the Supreme Court beats them to the punch and overturns the entire law.
According to the Democratically-appointed public trustee of the Medicare program, that wouldn’t just spell doom for “Obamacare,” but for Medicare and the entirety of the country’s ailing health care system.
“I’m not saying so much that I think the policies in the Affordable Care Act are the right ones or great ones — but should the court overturn the whole thing … or should the election be won in which this is a big issue and as a result of the outcome the winning party decides it has to gut the thing, what will happen is the momentum, which is disorganized but seems to be all moving in the right direction, will not just slow to a crawl but shift into reverse,” said economist and Urban Institute President Robert Reischauer, speaking on a panel at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
Reischauer said a confluence of government and private-sector activity are, in a self-reinforcing way, moving the country’s health care system in a more sustainable direction. A big reason for this, he noted, is the steps the government is taking to implement the Affordable Care Act.
But all of that would change if the health care law disappears — and Medicare would sustain the most immediate collateral damage. The demise of the health care law would have scores of consequences for Medicare — including by dramatically hastening the moment at which the program will exhaust its hospital insurance trust fund. The health care law has not only begun the slow process of reforming health care delivery in the private sector, it also rewrote the laws authorizing Medicare to reimburse providers.
As NPR reported, the full dissolution of the health care law would by consequence eliminate that authority.
“Hospitals might not get paid. Nursing homes might not get paid. Doctors might not get paid. Changes in coverage that have begun to take effect for the elderly, closing the doughnut hole might not happen. We don’t know,” George Washington University health law professor Sara Rosenbaum told NPR.