The Elections and Health Care Reform

What effect will Republican gains in the US House and Senate, and even larger gains in state legislatures, have on the current health care reform law?

There was entirely too much going on in the last few days: rallies for breast cancer awareness and sanity in Washington, DC; the Missouri Health Policy Summit, Halloween, and last-ditch efforts to get out the vote on November 2. I feel confident that I’m not alone in saying that I’m glad it’s all over.

Yesterday morning, however, we woke up to election results that may well have a substantial impact on the execution of health care reform. How? The Christian Science Monitor interviewed Princeton University healthcare economist Uwe Reinhardt, PhD, who spoke at the Health Policy Summit last week, and found the professor feeling a bit pessimistic that the tools built into health care reform to restrain rising health care costs will survive politics and lobbyists.

The political fallout associated with health care reform is real enough, given the rhetoric used by some politicians (“death panels,” anyone?). And to add fuel to the proverbial fire, insurance company actions, as reported by NPR’s Julie Rovner, ensure that consumers associate rising premiums with Obamacare, despite warnings from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, further evidence that the wagons of business are forming a protective circle around profit margins.

Despite the good efforts of pediatricians to communicate the benefits of healthcare reform for American children, the bottom line is that children can’t vote -- but aging baby boomers do. Like anyone else, people who are worried about Medicare vote from with their pocketbook.

Of course, it’s too early to speculate what’s on the horizon. However, one thing is for sure -- the landscape of the health care debate just changed again, and the debate is very far from over.

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