Republican debate: 5 key take-aways for health execs

G. William Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, believes that the Affordable Care Act and possible repeals toward it will be issues in the 2016 election.

In a bid for the GOP leadership, 10 of 17 Republican candidates took the stage Thursday at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, for the first primetime debate of the 2016 presidential race.

Vying for the White House included Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Donald Trump, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).


Post-debate, G. William Hoagland, senior vice president, Bipartisan Policy Center, Washington, D.C., says it's clear that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and arguments for its repeal will dominate 2016 politics. 

“As we move into open season this fall and as Medicare Part B premium increases are announced later this year, I would expect increased attention to premium prices will begin to dominate the early part of next year,” Hoagland says. He also expect to see increased attention to higher out-of-pocket costs as more plans with higher deductibles become more prevalent in the marketplace.

As the candidate field narrows, he predicts that candidates will be forced to answer questions such as, "What is your alternative to insuring coverage, lowering premium prices, while making sure individuals have choice in what/who they receive their healthcare from?’”


NEXT: Republicans need to put forward an alternative


Gov. Kasich

Beyond the general Republican view that “Obamacare” needs to be repealed, and that a “single-payer system” is not the replacement, the debate failed to reveal how each individual candidate would approach health reform, says Hoagland.

“You did not hear anything specific as to a clear Republican alternative to the ACA,” he says. “The closest thing that came to a Republican viewpoint was in the ‘negative’ sense of the question to Gov. Kasich in his defending his decision to expand Medicaid in his state under the provisions of the ACA. For the Governor expanding health services to low-income beneficiaries in his state was essential for overall lowering costs for those incarcerated in prisons or addicted to drugs, and avoiding unneeded hospitalizations.”

Hoagland breaks down five important takeaways from the debate:

  • GOP candidates better bone up on healthcare policy if they face Hillary Clinton, who Hoagland believes knows the subject matter very well.

  • There was no clear alternative articulated for Obamacare.

  • Governor candidates need to highlight how they are addressing healthcare challenges in their states.

  • GOP candidates need to focus on Section 1332 [known as the “state innovation” provision, which allows individual states flexibility in how they use revenue appropriated for Obamacare] of the ACA. “The answers to an alternative may already be in the law they are ditching,” Hoagland says.

  • GOP candidates need to find a message that emphasizes their compassion for the sick and infirmed (as Kasich did), “while also emphasizing the need to harness the rapidly changing landscape of healthcare delivery to the overall populations’ benefit,” Hoagland says.