Lawmakers weigh GOP’s repeal calls

Published 6:50 am Sunday, November 21, 2010

Staff Writer

Last week, North Carolina’s two U.S. senators and two area congressmen laid out their positions on Republican calls to repeal the health-care reform law supported by President Barack Obama and other Democrats.
The new GOP majority in the House, coupled with allies in the Democratic-majority Senate, may attempt a repeal vote when the 112th Congress convenes next year.
Obama likely would veto any repeal legislation, leading some veto-wary Republicans to speculate they should bank on taking the White House in the 2012 presidential election, national media have reported.
In an e-mailed response to questions, David Ward, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., made it clear Burr would vote in favor of repeal if a bill reached the Senate floor.
“Despite being marketed as a health care reform bill, not only does the new law expand the size and scope of the federal government, it also fails to deliver on the promise to lower health care costs,” Ward wrote. “This bill will actually increase costs for many Americans, both in terms of higher insurance premiums and in higher taxes. 
“Senator Burr believes we must give individuals and families choices in their health coverage. He is in support of taking necessary action to repeal this health care law and replace it with meaningful health reform.”
Ward did not respond to a question about which aspects of the law Burr would favor, pointing instead to the Patients’ Choice Act proposed in May 2009 by Burr and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
The Senators’ proposal relied partly on tax credits to help families and individuals cover health-care costs.
In an August 2009 interview, Burr acknowledged that some sort of health-care reform is necessary.
“I think you have to have health-care reform,” the state’s senior senator told the Daily News at the time.
He said the Obama-favored proposal then on the table was too expensive.
In her statement, Burr’s Democratic counterpart, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, said bringing health-care costs in line was one of the aims of the existing law.
“The health care law controls exploding health care costs, increases access to care and reduces our long-term deficit by as much as $1.2 trillion over 20 years,” Hagan said in the e-mailed statement. “But there are changes that would make the law work better for families and businesses. We need to eliminate the 1099 tax reporting requirement, which is unworkable for small businesses. I am working with my colleagues to do this as soon as possible. I also want to see more done to curb fraud and abuse in the system, and more transparency in pricing for procedures.”
According to, a small section of the health-care bill mandated that from 2012 on every business would have to provide 1099 forms to contractors or any company from which they buy more than $600 worth of product or services in a given tax year.
In a February interview, Hagan told the Daily News, “I think we need health-care reform. I’ve always said, from the beginning, that I don’t want to do anything to add to our deficit.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the reform legislation pushed through by the Democrats would cost the federal government $1 trillion over 10 years.
The CBO also forecast mounting federal budget deficits as a result of health-care costs, noting that the “federal budget is on an unsustainable path primarily because of the rising cost of health care.”
It’s this cost that U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., referred to in his response to questions posed by the Daily News.
“The health care reform debate was driven by concerns about the growing ranks of the uninsured and by the unsustainable growth in spending on health care and health insurance,” Butterfield said in an e-mailed statement. “The enacted reforms will improve access to care and control rising costs, and must not be repealed.
“These reforms will reduce the federal budget deficit by $143 billion over the first ten years and by $1.2 trillion dollars in the second ten years. In addition to providing the biggest deficit-reducing measures since the 1990s, these long-awaited reforms make coverage more affordable for everyone and hold insurance companies accountable, stopping the worst practices like denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, dropping coverage when someone gets sick or arbitrarily hiking up premiums.”
Asked whether he believes a vote to repeal is likely next year, Butterfield replied, “While the debate over health care reform was bitter, many of the provisions are quite welcome and popular. My hope is that Congress will instead focus its attention on helping to create jobs.”
Asked which provisions in the law he would keep in place, Butterfield stated, “I believe the law should remain in place — it will bring down premiums, hold insurance companies accountable, close the Medicare ‘donut hole,’ strengthen community health centers and rebuild the primary care workforce. All of this will be accomplished along with cutting cost.”
He added, “Congress has an obligation to the American people to ensure that everyone has access to affordable health care and the enacted health care reforms will go a long way toward achieving that goal.”
Catherine Fodor, communications director for U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., made it known that, like Burr, Jones favors repeal.
“Congressman Jones is in full support of repealing the health care law,” Fodor wrote in an e-mail. “He plans on working with the other Republican Members in the 112th Congress to make sure this happens. Congressman Jones believes that the health care system is in need of reform, but we should do it on a piece by piece basis, addressing each issue individually. A major government overhaul is not the way to go about it.”
In fact, Jones is willing to go to court to see at least on mandate in the law struck down.
On Friday, the congressman’s staff announced he had joined 62 other GOP House members in filing a challenge in a Florida federal court “supporting the effort to repeal a key component of Obamacare.”
“The brief argues that the U.S. Constitution is being violated by the individual mandate in Obamacare forcing all Americans to buy health insurance,” reads a news release from Jones’ office.
The challenge was filed through the American Center for Law and Justice, the conservatives’ answer to the American Civil Liberties Union.
In a February interview, Jones told the Daily News, “What I have been saying for over a year is that I agree that we need health-care reform, but we don’t need the federal government to take it over.”
He identified affordability, accessibility to care and pre-existing conditions as the leading three issues any reform legislation should treat.