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With Election Near, Romney, Obama Take Very Different Stances on Health Care Reform Law

November 5, 2012
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Related Topics: Health Care Reform, Health Care Costs, Benefit Design and Communication, Health Care Benefits, Latest News
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As voters go to the polls Nov. 6, they will cast their ballots for presidential candidates whose positions on the health care reform law differ enormously.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney said numerous times during the campaign that one of his first acts, if elected, would be to seek repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"We must rein in the skyrocketing cost of health care by repealing and replacing Obamacare," Romney said during his acceptance speech in August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

Still, Romney said he supports certain parts of the health care reform law, including provisions that require employers to extend coverage to employees' adult children up to age 26 and a ban of pre-existing medical condition exclusions.

But whether Romney would have any chance of repealing the law is questionable, experts says.

"He can seek repeal, but he will not get anywhere unless the GOP wins control of the Senate," said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health in Washington.

While it is unlikely that Republicans will gain control of the Senate, political observers say, a Romney administration could have a significant impact in the drafting of health care reform regulations, Darling noted.

If President Barack Obama is elected for a new term, experts expect an acceleration in the pace at which health care reform regulations are issued.

The administration knows "it needs to get things done," Darling said.

In fact, observers say, certain controversial rules—such as one that will lay down how much in assessments self-funded employers will have to pay to fund a health care reform law-created program that will partially reimburse commercial insurers for covering individuals with high health care costs—were held back for release after the elections.

Before an election, "no one wants to add to controversy," Darling said.

Regardless of which candidate is elected, the courts could resolve several health care reform law-related issues.

For example, dozens of suits have been filed challenging reform law-related rules requiring nonprofit affiliates of religious organizations to offer coverage for prescription contraceptives.

In addition, the Oklahoma Attorney General has filed suit challenging Internal Revenue Service rules that would allow eligible uninsured individuals to obtain premium subsidies to purchase coverage in exchanges the federal government will set up.

If the Oklahoma suit succeeds, the administration's goal of dramatically reducing the number of uninsured could be dashed because many state governors have said they will not set up exchanges.

For more about how elections can affect employee benefits, click here.

Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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