Just hours before the Republican National Convention was set to begin in Cleveland Monday, reporters and others seeking the final version of the Republican Party's 2016 platform still could not obtain a copy.
I've been asking the Republican National Committee and the office of Sen. John Barrasso, the head of the GOP Platform Committee for a copy since last Tuesday, when the platform drafting committee reportedly voted on the final document.
I'm not the only one asking. On Monday afternoon, veteran Kaiser Health News reporter Julie Rovner tweeted out, “Does anyone have a link to GOP2016 platform? Is it even online?”
The answer apparently was no. Barrasso's office told me I needed to talk to the Republican National Committee, and I never got a response from the RNC despite several phone calls and emails.
Two prominent conservative health policy analysts, James Capretta and Joe Antos, said they had not been able to obtain the health platform either. It “doesn't seem to be generally available yet, perhaps because there may be an internal fight over the long version,” Antos said late last week.
Of high interest is whether the campaign of presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has agreed to go along with key elements of the House Republican leaders' recent 35-page health policy proposal, including capping and cutting Medicare and Medicaid and taxing employer health plans.
There has been skepticism about whether Trump would fully embrace the Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan drafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other House Republican leaders, particularly its controversial call to turn Medicare into a defined-contribution program and raise the eligibility age to 67. Those provisions would potentially expose future retirees to higher out-of-pocket costs. During the primaries, Trump repeatedly criticized Ryan's past efforts to restructure and cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and blamed Ryan's proposals for Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election.
“Ryan's Medicare voucher plan has been shown to be extremely unpopular in polls among people age 50 and older,” said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.
There also were questions about whether the Trump campaign would go along with the House leadership proposal to tax employer health plans, especially after Congress postponed for two years the Affordable Care Act's so-called Cadillac plan tax on high-value employer plans.
While the House Republican white paper says that “most Americans' plans would not be affected,” one conservative analyst doubted that. “If that tax isn't big, they won't have the money to have a reasonable tax credit” to help people buy insurance, said John Goodman, of the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research. “And if it's big, it will hit the average worker.”
As Michael Grunwald wrote in Politico Magazine Sunday, the Trump campaign has been lighter on policy proposals than any presidential campaign in modern memory. “It's unclear what would become the law of the land under Trump, and it's unclear whether his convention will make it clearer," Grunwald wrote.
Healthcare leaders may just have to trust that whatever the healthcare problem is, Donald Trump will fix it. Or else he'll hand it off to Ryan and his fellow House conservatives to fix.