AGA Washington Insider

A policy blog for GIs

Is the Presidential Election Really Only a Year Away?

It’s hard to believe that the 2012 election is already less than year away. AGA wants to help you prepare for the upcoming eventful campaign season. We will keep you updated on how the elections may impact gastroenterology, the practice of medicine and research funding. 

As a start, AGA staff was invited to attend the National Journal’s “2012 Election Preview,” which featured top advisers to the 2012 GOP candidates and prominent political strategists. The speakers provided rare insight into the 2012 campaigns through a comprehensive review of the various factors that are playing out on the campaign trail. 

The main debate centered on whether November 2012 will be a referendum on President Obama or a choice between him and the Republican nominee. Opinions were divided across the partisan spectrum among the panelists. One thing is certain — the outcome will greatly affect the future of health care and gastroenterology.  

An important panel focused on what the economic environment might be post-election. The immediate future of health-care policy relies on the success (or failure) of the Congressional super committee. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-SC, stated, “No one believes the super committee is going to be able to do anything.” However, if the super committee does not succeed, sequestration will kick in, including a 2 percent automatic cut to Medicare providers. AGA continues to meet with some of the members of the super committee and emphasizes that any discussion must take into account the $300 billion sustainable growth rate (SGR) “hole.”  While there is bipartisan support for a permanent fix to the SGR mechanism for physician reimbursements, the question remains whether this issue will be addressed by the super committee, as offsets to reform the SGR formula would be required in addition to the super committee’s required $1.5 trillion cuts. 

During the election preview, the political pundits discussed the role of swing states and diversifying demographics. Charlie Black, a veteran GOP operative, believes that President Obama “can keep this a close race, but I don’t see how he can win if there’s no movement or turning around in people’s perception of the economy, and he only has a few months to do so.” Obama is personally popular, so people should not sell the president short. 

Steve McMahon of Purple Strategies referenced the redistricting process, which occurs every ten years after the census is taken. Despite the fact that Republicans took over the majority of state legislatures (which are usually responsible for redistricting) in the 2010 elections, it will be mostly a wash. According to the National Journal, “Obama has been unable to draw a sharp contrast on issues like middle-class tax cuts and the environment. But he’ll get that chance the moment a GOP candidate emerges.” The GOP has only managed to strengthen the districts of Republican incumbents. McMahon also warned that we may be seeing many incumbents lose in both parties since Congress has a historically low approval rating at the moment. 

All strategists seemed to agree that the chance that the Senate will flip is little better than 50/50 and it is highly unlikely that the House will gain a Democratic majority. Although the Rep. Paul Ryan’s, R-WI, GOP budget plan has not received a lot of attention recently, McMahon believes the Democrats will use the issue heavily during campaigns. Every single GOP House Republican member voted to approve the Ryan budget, which could cause them problems with the politically active Medicare population.

Another panel highlighted the top advisers to all the 2012 Republican presidential candidates, and the only topic they seemed to agree upon was their belief that President Obama has done a poor job in the White House and must be defeated. The main focus was on Mark Block, chief of staff to Herman Cain, because of the recent allegations regarding Mr. Cain’s alleged sexual harassment. Mr. Block refused to answer any questions even after several of the panelists insisted Mr. Cain must be vetted. Despite the scandal, Herman Cain was able to raise $250,000 in one day.  

AGA will follow the 2012 campaigns closely. Continue to read the AGA Washington Insider for more updates on the pending elections, Medicare reimbursement, research funding, and other important issues related to health-care reform and regulation.

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