The Republicans formalized their party platform yesterday as part of the first day of their national convention. The document does not contain many surprises, but solidifies the direction GOP leadership will take should they win in November. Here are some highlights for health advocates:
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act: Again, this comes as little surprise, given that Republicans have promised to repeal the measure since the day it was signed, and the Republican-led House has passed numerous bills to do so. But the party platform confirms the party’s plans, saying “Congressional Republicans are committed to its repeal; and a Republican President, on the first day in office, will use his legitimate waiver authority under that law to halt its progress and then will sign its repeal.”
The document also offers insight into the framework of potential Republican legislation to replace the ACA, promising to “increase healthcare choice and options, contain costs and reduce mandates, simplify the system for patients and providers, restore cuts made to Medicare, and equalize the tax treatment of group and individual health insurance plans.” The platform also calls for price transparency for health services, a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, and promotion of Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Accounts to be used for insurance premiums.
Medicaid Block Grants: This is another long-standing idea, which was included in the House-passed budget drafted by current Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Calling Medicaid “the next frontier of welfare reform,” the platform recommends block-granting the Medicaid program. Currently, the federal government sets standards for Medicaid eligibility and pays about 60% of the cost of covering those individuals. The block grant program would provide each state with a lump sum annual payment in exchange for greater freedom in administering the program. The platform says this change would allow “flexibility to design programs that meet the needs of their low income citizens.”
Changes to Medicare: The platform also adopts the portion of the Ryan plan which would convert Medicare from a defined-benefit system into a defined contribution system for Americans under the age of 55. This is what has come to be known as the voucher system, wherein Medicare beneficiaries would be given the option of traditional Medicare or income-adjusted premium support to purchase their own health insurance. The platform also suggests an increase in the age of eligibility “without disadvantaging retirees or those nearing retirement,” but does not lay out particulars on when such changes would be implemented or to what age eligibility might be raised.
Investments in Healthcare: While much of the platform’s focus is on reigning in federal spending, Republicans do endorse “investment in healthcare delivery systems and solutions creating innovative means to provide greater, more cost-effective access to high quality healthcare,” specifically “basic and applied biomedical research, especially the neuroscience research that may hold great potential for dealing with diseases and disorders such as Autism, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.”