Sept. 4, 2012 – 4:28 p.m.

Democratic Platform Touts Health Care Law, Offers Few Specifics About Path Ahead

The Democratic Party platform, released Tuesday, asserts that Republicans would repeal the health care law while Democrats are committed to “moving forward.” But it offers only generalities as to what would lie ahead for health care in a second Obama term.

The platform touts at length the accomplishments of the overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) with an emphasis on the benefits it creates for women — giving as examples an end to higher insurance premiums for women based on their gender and free preventive services, such as well-woman visits and contraceptive coverage. More is to come as implementation continues, it says.

“Soon, working families will finally have the security of knowing they won’t lose health care or be forced into bankruptcy if a family member gets sick or loses their job,” the platform adds. “And soon, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.”

GOP nominee Mitt Romney and Republicans “are more concerned with playing politics than supporting families in this country,” the platform says. Democrats “stand willing to work with anyone to improve the law where necessary, but we are committed to moving forward,” it says. The platform gives no specific examples of where the law might be changed or improved. And while Democrats say they support affordable health care, the platform mentions no new particular strategies for containing costs.

The Republicans’ platform, released during their national convention last week, includes a series of ideas long supported by party members. It calls on Congress to repeal the health care law and says a Republican president would, on his first day in office, use his waiver authority under the law to block implementation of the health care overhaul. Republicans also say they support limits on federal requirements for private insurance and Medicaid, price transparency for the costs of services, caps on economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, purchasing pools to expand coverage to the uninsured and promotion by the government of high-deductible insurance plans, like health savings accounts.

Democrats will continue to fight for a strong health care workforce with an emphasis on primary care, access to mental health and substance abuse services, investments in public health infrastructure and money for community health centers, the platform says. Party members oppose efforts to distribute Medicaid funds to states through block grants or to reduce Medicaid funding; block grants are backed in the GOP platform. On HIV and AIDS, the platform highlights the president’s strategy for responding to the epidemic and says the administration’s evidence-based plan will direct money to the groups at most risk, including gay men, substance abusers and black and Latino Americans.

“And we will continue to support America’s groundbreaking biomedical researchers in their lifesaving work,” the platform concludes.

As for Medicare, the platform says, “Democrats adamantly oppose any efforts to privatize or voucherize Medicare; unlike our opponents we will not ask seniors to pay thousands of dollars more every year while they watch the value of their Medicare benefits evaporate.” A premium support plan proposed by Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, in its original form would have extracted more money from seniors; his current plan has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office and would begin with new beneficiaries in 2023.

“Our reform of health care will empower millions of seniors to control their personal health care decisions, unlike Obamacare that empowered a handful of bureaucrats to cut Medicare in ways that will deny care for the elderly,” Republicans said in their platform.

Democrats said the new health care law strengthened Medicare with new benefits, improved quality of care and better abilities to detect scams, the platform says. The president’s crackdown on health care fraud has saved $10 billion and the platform says that Democrats will “build on those reforms, not eliminate Medicare’s guarantees.”

Party Platforms: Democrats | Republicans

Jane Norman can be reached at jnorman@cq.com