Q+A: Can the healthcare overhaul be repealed?

By Patricia Zengerle and Donna Smith

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, or at least eliminate as many of its provisions as possible.

Republicans included a pledge to roll back the healthcare bill in their “Pledge to America,” a pre-election plan to slash spending and stop “job-killing tax hikes.”

Here are some questions and answers about whether this is possible:

WILL REPUBLICANS HAVE THE VOTES TO REPEAL?

It will be very difficult if not impossible for Republicans to make good on their promise to repeal the healthcare law even if they take control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives in the November 2 election.

They will need at least 60 votes to get repeal through the Senate. Even if they do, President Obama would most likely veto any repeal.

The Democrats currently have 59 votes in the Senate (57 Democrats and two independents who caucus with them). Of the 37 seats up for grabs on November 2, 19 are held by Democrats and 18 by Republicans. In the House, where every seat is in play in the mid-terms, Democrats now control 256 seats and Republicans 179, with one vacancy.

It takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override a veto — not just a majority — 290 votes in the House and 67 votes in the Senate if every member votes.

CAN REPUBLICANS STOP HEALTHCARE BY REFUSING TO FUND IT?

Republicans can try to withhold money needed to administer and enforce the law. But, again, they would need control of both chambers to get such measures through.

Any attempt to block funding also would face the need for 60 votes in the Senate, as well as the threat of a veto.

WHAT ELSE COULD A REPUBLICAN-CONTROLLED CONGRESS DO?

The biggest impact Republicans could have on the law and public opinion if they took control of Congress would be to hold detailed hearings on implementation. Such a complex law is bound to run into many problems with implementation and the party in control in Congress can control committee hearing schedules and delay putting laws into place.

IS THERE A PRECEDENT?

Yes. In 1988 Republican President Ronald Reagan and the Democratic Congress passed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, which was intended to fill gaps in coverage in the government insurance program for older Americans.

Passed in June 1988, it was celebrated as a bipartisan success that would provide new medical benefits for the elderly. However, older Americans had to pay for it, in the form of an extra Medicare premium and a surtax for people over 65 with higher incomes. The tax led to a protest campaign, and Congress, in another bipartisan vote, backed its repeal.

WHICH PROVISIONS WOULD REPUBLICANS TARGET?

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch has already introduced a bill seeking to eliminate the requirement for employers to offer healthcare insurance to employees or pay a tax penalty.

Others want to repeal a requirement that all Americans buy health insurance.

Another plan would be to prevent some planned reductions in benefits under Medicare, the government-funded health insurance for older Americans, or scale back the expansion of Medicaid, the existing government healthcare program for the poor.

WHAT ABOUT THE LAWSUITS?

There have been more than 15 lawsuits filed against the healthcare law, mostly by Republican state officials, challenging the constitutionality of the requirement that most Americans obtain medical insurance.

Administration officials and most legal experts say they are confident that the law would withstand the legal challenge, because the federal government has the ability to levy taxes and the Constitution puts federal government powers above those of states.

Some other experts, and opponents of the bill, expect the issue will eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would make a historic decision.

But in any event, the suit would take years to makes its way to the Supreme Court, a timeline far beyond the immediate political battle over the bill.

HOW WILL THIS PLAY WITH THE PUBLIC?

Although polls generally show Americans evenly divided on the healthcare law, fewer than half view it favorably, and some surveys have shown the favorable number slipped recently.

Healthcare backers, including Obama himself, have acknowledged that they could have done a better job convincing the public about the program’s benefits.

The administration marked the law’s six-month anniversary on September 23, the same day that several provisions became effective, with a push to give it a human face by focusing on individuals — such as cancer patients and sick children who were denied health coverage by insurance companies but now cannot be excluded — who are benefiting from the law.

It could be too late to win over many voters before the November elections, but even some Republicans acknowledge that the plan could become more popular, if enough Americans begin to feel the plan is benefiting them.

It would thus be far more difficult to convince the public to support plans to repeal healthcare or scale it back.

(Additional reporting by Tom Brown in Miami; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Q+A: Can the healthcare overhaul be repealed?