Austerity Approach by Republicans in the House Will Not be Confined to Health Care


Congress is back in session this week and the brawl on the hill over health care reform will officially be on once the GOP takes control of the House.

Talk of rescinding the health care law to starving funding for it are rampant in the new Congress. So what does that mean for investors who are investing in the health care sector?

I decided to ask Wilbur Ross, Chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co.

In July of 2010, Ross along with Edwin “Mac” Crawford, former chairman of CVSCaremark , teamed up to form a joint venture looking to invest in the health care sector with a focus on service providers rather than products. WL Ross committed more than $1 billion to the partnership.

I got right to it asking both of them if this cloud of uncertainty hanging over the sector is dampening his optimism on investing opportunities.

LL: The GOP is looking to repeal health care and while it appears they have the votes to pass a roll back on the law, it's extremely unlikely a repeal would happen because of the Democratic lead Senate and the President's Veto. What do you think of the House's symbolic move?

WR: I agree that it is unlikely that the entire legislation will be repealed, but the repeal effort may well result in negotiations to eliminate some of the more egregious features.

Remember that the original bill required businesses to report every check of $600 or more that they wrote to another one? It will be ridiculously costly. Do you have any idea how many $600 checks even a small business writes in a year?

Also, a few provisions already have gone into effect on January 1, so it probably is not practical to roll them back, but the detailed implementation of the rest will take tens or even hundreds of thousands of pages of detailed rules and regulations to be issued by the agencies. It is these that might be slowed by budgetary constraints.

MC: I concur that it is unlikely that the Republicans can repeal the healthcare bill, and I agree that negotiations will take place that will remove a number of provisions. The recent court ruling on individual mandates and the subsequent indication from the administration that they may be willing to let states and employers opt out of some of the provisions are indications that this is already happening.

LL: The House GOP is expected to starve funding to the reform bill. What kind of implications will that have on possible health care plays?

WR: I believe that the austerity approach by Republicans in the House will not be confined to healthcare. I believe that they will also go after the EPA and other agencies perceived as antibusiness. For example, EPA seems to be trying to put into effect via rule making ideas that Congress decided not to pass. This has infuriated much of the business community. Usually in Washington, if there is power behind an initiative, some of its demands will be met.

LL: The two of you formed your partnership in July. Wilbur, you said this reform was going to create a whole new set of winners and losers. Does this political noise change anything?

WR: The very lack of clarity in what will happen in healthcare is itself causing turmoil because it is difficult for businesses to plan if they are not sure what the rules will be. Health care still is 17 percent of the economy and growing as the population ages and many of the companies are highly leveraged, so we continue to believe there will be opportunities

MC: Health care still remains a very large part of our GDP which is not likely to change. We certainly have to address the potential impact of the legal and regulatory environment on each investment that we look at and this assessment has to take into account the current laws and regulations as well as what we think the impact of future changes may be. That being said, we still think that healthcare services is still an attractive space.


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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."