Health Industry Cool To Complete Repeal Of Law Republicans in Congress say their priority for next year is to build momentum for an eventual repeal of the new health overhaul. But they could be in for a surprise: While repeal may be popular with Republican voters, the GOP could face pushback from some allies in the health care industry.
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Health Industry Cool To Complete Repeal Of New Law

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Health Industry Cool To Complete Repeal Of New Law

Health Industry Cool To Complete Repeal Of New Law

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Julie Rovner explains why.

JULIE ROVNER: Incoming House Speaker John Boehner told Fox News earlier this month he'll do whatever it takes to eliminate the new health law.

JOHN BOEHNER: Unidentified Man: So you'll take a vote on repealing?

BOEHNER: We are going to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with common sense reforms that'll bring down the cost of health insurance.

ROVNER: Now, 88 percent of Republican voters polled on Election Day agree with that goal. But a lot of key players in the health care industry don't. Rich Umbdenstock, for example, is president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.

RICH UMBDENSTOCK: Doing away with this would certainly be the wrong thing. People have been gearing up for some time, well before this actual bill got passed, to make these changes locally, and have invested a lot.

ROVNER: Helen Darling heads the National Business Group on Health, which represents many of the Fortune 100 corporations. She says just the possibility that the law will be repealed or substantially changed is a serious problem.

HELEN DARLING: It takes a long lead time to execute any policy, so at this point having a lot of uncertainty and policy volatility really work against helping us to move toward solving the problems of the country.

ROVNER: Which is not to say that the health care industry loves the law. No segment of the industry got everything it wanted, and everyone is busy lobbying for something to be changed, she says.

DARLING: There are plenty of opportunities for improvement, fine-tuning and actually adding some significant enhancements, especially in controlling costs.

ROVNER: Robert Zirkelbach is a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans.

ROBERT ZIRKELBACH: We looking forward to working with both parties to minimize coverage disruptions caused by the new law and to make health care coverage more affordable for working families and small businesses.

ROVNER: So what's going on? Are Republicans being abandoned by their usual allies in the business community? Not exactly, says Jonathan Oberlander, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

JONATHAN OBERLANDER: Usually we think of the health care industry as being in alliance with the Republicans and opposing more government intervention in the health system. But you have to ask, why did the health care industry support the reform law in the first place?

ROVNER: The reason, he says, is because the more people there were without health insurance - that number is now more than 50 million - the more threatened the industry got financially. In other words, its entire business model was threatening to fall apart.

OBERLANDER: The health care industry needs paying customers and insured customers to make their business model work. To the extent that Republicans push repeal, they are threatening the bottom line in some sense of the health care industry.

ROVNER: And to the extent the health industry perceives the new law as better than the world as it was before, he says, expect industry players to oppose repeal - strenuously.

OBERLANDER: 'Cause they're putting so many resources into it, a repeal in that sense represents a threat to them because they're already spending lots of money getting ready for the law. If you're talking about rolling the law back, that's a blow to their future, but it also represents a loss of all the resources they've pumped into it right now in getting ready for it.

ROVNER: Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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