Republican Governors Want Health Law Flexibility, Could Help Insurers With Reform

The Wall Street Journal: "More than a dozen Republican governors-elect plotted ways to unravel the Democrats’ health-care overhaul and to give states more freedom in regulating programs like Medicaid during a meeting late Wednesday with incoming Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  ... From Pennsylvania to New Mexico, newly elected Republican governors are preparing to tackle huge budget deficits at a time of high unemployment and shrinking federal money" (King, 12/1).

Bloomberg/Indianapolis Business Journal: The Republican governors, who will control 29 states in January, could help insurers deal with the health law, and as a result, they "may face fewer restrictions and pay out less in benefits, said Michael Leavitt, a former health secretary under President George W. Bush. … The health-care law requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of policy premiums on patient care, instead of profits or administrative costs. Governors next year can request a waiver from the federal government if they conclude the mandate will destabilize insurance markets, said Leavitt, now a consultant to states and hospitals" (12/1).

The Hill reports, meanwhile, that Tea Party lawmakers that were elected in November are "balking at the House Republican leadership's plan to simultaneously repeal and replace President Obama's healthcare law. The resistance from conservative lawmakers is a clear indication of the challenge Republican leaders face in their uphill battle to rescind the law. The emerging friction in the GOP conference also reflects the difficult transition from campaigning in the minority party to governing in the majority." Some lawmakers simply want repeal of the law. Tea party members like Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., want "to make that argument why free-market healthcare is a good thing," she said, while GOP party leadership like incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said leadership will offer a replacement health bill (Hooper, 12/1).

Kaiser Health News: And the roles of health players in influencing the health law debate are becoming more clear. "The drug industry's chief lobbyists - the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America - raised and spent at least $101.2 million in 2009 on advocacy efforts during the contentious health care debate, according to IRS documents the group filed in mid-November. Former PhRMA CEO Billy Tauzin says the lobby used the money — special contributions from member companies — for broadcast and print advertising, grassroots and direct lobbying, polling and consulting" (Vaida and Weaver, 12/1).

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