- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A key House Republican said Wednesday that GOP lawmakers are preparing a sweeping overhaul of health care in anticipation of a chance to pass something this summer after the Supreme Court rules on President Obama’s health law.

The nine justices are expected to hand down a landmark ruling in June on whether the individual mandate and Medicaid provisions in Mr. Obama’s biggest legislative achievement are constitutional. Rep. Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican, said that whichever way they rule, there will be a chance to make a case to voters once again that Mr. Obama’s plan should be scrapped.

“We’ll have a window of opportunity, with everyone looking, to explain that the Affordable Care Act is not fully implemented yet,” said Mr. Pitts, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee. “A lot of people think it is already. They don’t know what’s coming.”

Details of the legislation are still being crafted, but it likely will include tax incentives for individuals to purchase health insurance, medical-liability reform and provisions allowing insurance to be sold and risk to be pooled across state lines, he said.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Mr. Pitts said he expects the GOP leadership to advance their replacement package soon after the court releases its ruling - even if the justices uphold the individual mandate, the centerpiece and most controversial part of the law requiring Americans to obtain coverage or pay a fine.

“We’ll use that opportunity in that window to discuss the full ramifications of the Affordable Care Act and what we’d replace it with,” Mr. Pitts said.

The Supreme Court’s final ruling could take a number of different forms.

The justices could uphold the entire law, validating Mr. Obama’s argument that requiring Americans to buy health insurance is a proper use of government power. They could strike down the individual mandate but leave the rest of the law intact. Or, they could strike down the mandate and the rest of the law a scenario that even Mr. Pitts doesn’t think is likely.

“We don’t expect the court to rule the whole law’s unconstitutional,” he said, although he added that Republicans will still try to replace the whole law. “We will have a package, as I enumerated, that would apply as a complete replacement.”

Over the next few months, Republicans also will try to repeal smaller sections of the health care law, Mr. Pitts said. House Speaker John A. Boehner has scheduled a vote next week to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, an insurance program for the elderly and those needing long-term care that the Obama administration has halted for reasons of financial instability.

GOP leaders also are looking at legislation to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel created by the health care law to rein in Medicare costs. The IPAB is loathed by Republicans, who say it will have too much power and could hurt doctors by cutting reimbursements too much.

The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 without any Republican votes, but the GOP’s efforts to repeal it last year stalled, and the party’s leaders have yet to introduce a replacement.

• Paige Winfield Cunningham can be reached at pcunningham@washingtontimes.com.

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