The typically second-rate vice presidential debate has at least one big thing going for it this year: Healthcare reform will likely be a centerpiece.
The presidential debate didn’t give us any new information about either party’s stance on healthcare issues, leaving it to the vice presidential candidates to fill in the detail. Reuters, in fact, went so far as to say the debate could hinge on the topic of Medicare.
First off, we can expect some thought-provoking and probably cringe-inducing interactions between Vice President Joe Biden, seasoned in the art of the debate but prone to blunders, and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, even-tempered but with a tendency to drone on. But they’ll be focusing on a few issues that are critical to our industry.
The semi-privatization of Medicare, for one, is a key piece of Ryan’s budget plan, and the voucher plan Romney avoided pledging his commitment to in the first presidential debate is an area where Ryan is much more comfortable. He’s experienced in explaining the plan to skeptics and will likely come to the debate loaded with a magic bag of statistics about how Obamacare hasn’t lowered healthcare costs.
And Biden will come out swinging on that one, too. Since the president missed opportunities to call out Mitt Romney on his questionable $716 billion-cuts-to-Medicare accusation and other misleading statements during their debate, the vice president is reportedly devoting a lot of time to educating himself on Ryan’s positions so he can strike back with confidence.
Then there’s Medicaid, which didn’t get much attention at last week’s presidential debate, but is a big point of contention between the two parties: Romney’s plan would turn control of Medicaid over to the states in the form of block grants, inducing cost savings but likely reducing coverage, while Obama’s plan has already expanded coverage. The impact of these public programs in not only the country’s aging, disabled and poor populations but for hospitals, primary care providers, private insurers and essentially any healthcare-focused company can’t be understated.
It will also be interesting to see how the stock market reacts, as investors are keeping close tabs on the presidential race, too. Hospitals’ stocks dipped following President Obama’s lackluster appearance in the first presidential debate last week, which apparently made investors nervous that Romney, who threatens to repeal Obama’s healthcare overhaul, could be gaining public favor. Analysts say to expect more knee-jerk reactions from investors after tonight’s debate.
Thankfully, if all else fails and the VP debates turn out to be a snoozefest, there’s this drinking game: Every time Biden suggests that the Republicans want to “end” Medicare, take a sip.