House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made waves last week by saying “ObamaCare is the law of the land,” then quickly walked back that comment, saying in a statement that he still supports full repeal. Gingrey said he agreed with Boehner’s clarification and said he still thinks the law is bad policy, but acknowledged that full repeal is politically out of reach.
“I don’t think we will have a vote on full repeal unless really it’s a messaging vote,” Gingrey said. “I think we should concentrate our efforts on trying to repeal the most egregious parts.”
He cited the law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an expert cost-cutting panel tasked with slowing the growth in Medicare spending if costs exceed a certain benchmark. The House voted to repeal the IPAB last year, but the board is the primary cost-control measure in the healthcare law, and repeal went nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Gingrey also singled out cuts in hospital payments and the tax on medical devices, which is unpopular even with many Democrats. And he said he expects to see a push to roll back the law’s insurance subsidies during negotiations over the fiscal cliff.
Republicans want to pay for an agreement at least in part by tapping the health law’s subsidies. Some stakeholders have also thrown out the idea of delaying the subsidies, which are supposed to begin flowing in 2014, but Gingrey said he hasn’t heard any discussion of a delay and doubts Democrats would sign on.
The dreaded, perennial “doc fix” is among the headaches facing lawmakers as they approach the fiscal cliff. Doctors are set to see a nearly 30 percent cut in their Medicare payments unless Congress delays the reduction.
It’s not yet clear where the doc fix would fit in if Congress delays part of the fiscal cliff until March, but Gingrey said he’s angling for a year-long fix during the lame-duck session, rather than pushing the doc fix to March along with other parts of the fiscal cliff.
He said he hasn’t heard any cues from leadership on the length of the doc fix, but is “pretty confident” a full year will come through.
Finally, Gingrey vowed to keep up an Energy and Commerce Committee investigation into the White House’s negotiations with stakeholder groups to secure their support for healthcare reform during the congressional debate. Committee Republicans have pressed for information specifically about the agreement Democrats struck with the pharmaceutical industry.
“I think the public needs to understand what kind of shenanigans, if you will, go on behind closed doors, and what promises are made and what deals are cut with certain advocacy groups that feathers their nest while at the same time goring somebody else’s ox, and the somebody else is John Q. Taxpayer,” Gingrey said.