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GOP platform holds back on health policies except in social issues

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The Republican Party platform released Monday at the 2016 convention is strongly conservative on social issues related to health care and contains little in the way of new ideas.

The platform calls for a halt to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, shifting Medicare to a premium support model and turning Medicaid into a capped state block grant program. It does not go as far as the plan outlined recently by Republicans in the House of Representatives but also shies away from some of presumptive candidate Donald Trump's more controversial statements.

Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said one particularly conservative notion included in this year's platform is premium support for Medicare, which would provide beneficiaries an income-adjusted contribution toward buying a private plan.

Joe Antos, senior fellow at the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute said such a move would “promote competition and more efficient health care,” but it is deeply unpopular with the public.

Mr. Levitt said the plan notably lacks any way of helping people who would lose insurance from a repeal of the ACA gain coverage.

Many economists have pushed against the idea of turning Medicaid into block grants, saying it would cause far fewer people to be insured and would leave the program unable to respond to economic downturns.

A block grant program in place of Medicaid would be most damaging for low-income, vulnerable and currently uninsured Americans, according to a KFF issue brief.

Mr. Antos said the platform should have also included a per capita allotment to help states meet the needs of their specific populations.

Mr. Levitt noted that the platform also lacks any taxes on employer-based insurance, which would be one way to help people afford coverage outside of the ACA exchanges and subsidies.

The platform calls for making it a crime to acquire or transfer fetal body parts for research purposes and says federal funding should not be provided to Planned Parenthood and organizations like it. One anti-abortion rights groups labeled the plan “the strongest pro-life platform in the Republican Party's history.”

Planned Parenthood officials said it was the first time the Republican Party had attacked the organization specifically by name.

“This isn't just an attack on Planned Parenthood,” Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement. “It's an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood health centers each year for basic health care. It's an attack on the brave doctors, clinicians, staff, and educators who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with things like cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams. This attack in the party's platform is unconscionable, and explains why Trump has a gender gap of historic proportions.”

Mr. Antos said the policies lack some of the more controversial statements previously made by presumed nominee Donald Trump, including allowing Medicare to negotiate for prescription drug prices.

“The Republican Party has stated where it stands on health care and other policy issues,” he said. “It remains to be seen where their candidate lands on those same issues.”

Shannon Muchmore writes for Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Business Insurance.