The Republican National Convention adopted a 2012 party platform that advocates changing how U.S. senior citizens receive health care by shifting Medicare from a defined-benefit entitlement to a defined-contribution plan.
The platform also proposes a constitutional amendment to ban abortion without stipulating any exceptions for ending pregnancies caused by rape or to save a woman’s life. It also affirms marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.”
The platform would turn administration of the Medicaid program for 54 million low-income Americans over to the states. The outlines of the Medicare overhaul, which wouldn’t affect the 47 million current beneficiaries or anyone older than 55, are in line with the proposal to revamp the program by the party’s vice presidential nominee, Representative Paul Ryan.
“This ambitious blueprint projects a sea change in the way government works,” said Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, the platform panel’s chairman. States would “take center stage in the long-overdue renewal of our American society” through “reforming Medicaid and welfare programs and managing environmental programs locally.”
The 2012 platform was adopted on a voice vote Tuesday as the convention opened in Tampa.
Insurance broker Jason Seltzer, co-founder of Pittsburgh-based J. Seltzer Associates, believes the majority of the information coming from the Republican National Convention has nothing to do with the Republican platform.
“Outside of health care reform I don’t think the Republicans have done a good job coming out and saying specifically what they’re going to accomplish [if they take office],” he says. “They’ve made it very clear they have every intention of attempting to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which I think all of us in the industry know is almost politically impossible.”
Calling Medicare “the largest driver of future debt,” the platform proposes giving senior citizens financial support, adjusted by income, to purchase private insurance. Such private plans would compete with the traditional Medicare program. To achieve further savings, the current Medicare eligibility age of 65 should be “made more realistic” because of longer life expectancy, the platform says.
The platform also calls for turning many of the functions of the Transportation Security Administration over to private businesses to provide security at airports throughout the U.S.
In a boost for big coal-production states like Wyoming, Illinois and West Virginia, the platform advocates development of “state-of-the-art” coal-fired power plants and the new coal gasification and “coal-to-liquid” fuels.
It says President Barack Obama’s administration “seems determined to shut down coal production” even though “there is no cost-effective substitute for it” as the “largest source of electricity generation.”
The party affirmed its commitment to building the Keystone XL pipeline, which TransCanada Corp. proposes carry tar-sands crude from Alberta to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama administration is reviewing a revised proposal after the president rejected the original route, which raised concerns it would damage environmentally fragile regions of Nebraska.
Republicans “respect the states’ proven ability” to regulate hydraulic fracturing to tap oil and natural gas resources, the platform said.
On abortion, the platform advocates legislation to bar women from terminating a pregnancy for the purpose of selecting a child’s gender.
The constitutional amendment to ban abortion is a reiteration of the Republican Party’s longstanding position. The issue was thrust to the forefront of the political debate after Todd Akin, a Missouri congressman running for the Senate, said he opposed making an exception for rape because “legitimate rape” rarely leads to pregnancy.
As the platform was being debated in Tampa last week, Republicans seeking to end the distraction from Romney’s candidacy, called for Akin to drop out of the Senate race and allow another Republican to challenge Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. Akin, who apologized for the remark, has defied those requests that he step aside.
The platform calls for a permanent ban on all federal financing of abortions; such a prohibition is enacted as a policy restriction to spending measures. The platform also advocates the end of any government subsidies for private health plans that provide abortions, though the party wouldn’t do away with tax benefits for companies that sponsor such coverage.
Seltzer says that the Republicans’ adopted platform, which is focusing on Medicare, TSA, Keystone XL pipeline and abortion, are “ideological things; they’re not tangible."
In a bow to supporters of Texas Representative Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy, the platform calls for a commission to study the feasibility of returning the dollar to the gold standard. A similar commission created by President Ronald Reagan “advised against such a move,” the platform noted.
— Additional reporting by Marli D. Riggs, associate editor of Employee Benefit Adviser.
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