At GOP conference, health law seen as threat, opportunity
Betsy McCaughey stepped to the lectern before a room full of Republicans on Friday and, with a thud, set down a binder more than 5 inches thick. The pages filling it made up the Affordable Care Act, which McCaughey spent the next 20 minutes characterizing as a dangerous law that’s infringing on individual rights and weakening the country’s health care system.
“The very size of this law is a very dangerous problem,” said McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor in New York and author of a book called Beating Obamacare. “We Republicans now must elect a president who will repeal this law, rein in government spending and show respect and commitment to the Constitution.”
McCaughey’s talk, also called Beating Obamacare, was part of this weekend’s Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua. Her speech was brief, but Obamacare was a focal point for many speakers during the two-day conference, which drew roughly 800 attendees.
Since 2010, Republicans have been clear in their goal of repealing the law. What comes next has been more ambiguous, and speakers this weekend didn’t delve into the details, although they said Republicans do have ideas. When one attendee asked McCaughey about Republican alternatives, she blamed the media for not writing about them but was not specific about which alternatives she supports.
Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, said talking about why the law is bad is the first step toward repeal.
“I think it’s imperative that they articulate why Obamacare doesn’t work, because why it doesn’t work reveals for us what the right answer is,” she said.
Nearly every Republican this weekend said they want to encourage competition in the private sector so that costs will go down and access will increase – two of the main things they say the current law doesn’t do.
A popular idea among Republicans is to allow people to purchase insurance plans from providers in other states. Frank Guinta, who is running for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, agrees with this.
Guinta did not vote for Obamacare when he was in Congress in 2010. His first big initiative in his campaign to win back the seat he lost in 2012 is an ongoing health care listening tour. After the tour, he said he’ll release a plan with alternatives to Obamacare and an analysis of how likely it is his solutions would be passed.
“Let’s achieve the goal of greater affordability and more accessibility, more options and choice, but I do want to do it without that government intervention that the Affordable Care Act requires,” he said. “I will come up with a more engaged proposal.”
State Rep. Marilinda Garcia, a Salem Republican running in the 2nd Congressional District, said the focus should be on quality of care. Garcia said she’s been working to reform health care regulations to increase competition and encourage transparency in pricing so that doctors and patients understand how much things cost.
“I realistically am looking to dismantle as much of Obamacare as possible,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte also made Obamacare a focus ofher lunchtime speech to the crowd. Every Republican in the U.S. Senate wants a solution that would replace Obamacare with options that put choices back in the hands of the people, she said. But, Ayotte said, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid barely allows any Republican ideas come to the floor for a debate or vote.
“I think one of the challenges we face is that it’s harder to have that conversation because we can’t get the media to engage on it or because a good bill that comes out of the House dies in the Senate so it simply doesn’t get the conversation,” Horn said.
Either way, Republicans believe an anti-Obamacare message is a winning one in 2014. And if they do win back the Senate, Republicans said they will repeal the law.
“Let’s just be clear,” Ayotte said. “Every Republican in the United States Senate wants to repeal Obamacare.”
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)
UPDATE: This story was updated on March 16, 2014, to correct references to New Hampshire’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts.