First and foremost, the entire staff here at EBA wishes you a relaxing and joyful holiday season, and a very Merry Christmas. We thank you for sticking with us throughout 2010 (you are our customers, if you didn't realize it), and we wish you a happy and prosperous New Year in 2011.

Speaking of next year, let's all take a deep breath - we're on the cusp of a year that, as unlikely as this sounds, may eclipse 2010 in its unpredictability and turmoil. When the 112th Congress convenes in January, attention will focus on Capitol Hill and the GOP campaign pledge to "repeal and replace" the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

However, as the Democrats discovered during their two-year battle to enact the law, health care policy is complex and especially prone to the Law of Unintended Consequences. The Republicans who now control the House and wield greater clout in the Senate would do well to remember that fact.

What we can expect in the first few months of the "Fightin' 112th"? Here's a peek:

* Repeal effort. Expect one of the first bills introduced in the House (my money's on H.R. 1) to propose outright repeal of PPACA. But don't expect the Senate to go along. This is all about fulfilling a GOP campaign promise and making the Democrats play defense.

* Hearings. If you don't now know the innermost thoughts of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius or CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, you will by Groundhog Day - the new Republican subcommittee chairmen will see to that.

* Sniper fire. Once outright repeal is off the table, Republicans will pick off some of the law's most unpopular provisions, starting with the Form 1099 filing requirement for business purchases greater than $600. There is support for that one among Democrats in the Senate, so expect some real progress there; even the president has indicated he supports such a step. The key question will be what else he will go along with and which steps he will veto. Don't look for much "give" from him beyond the 1099 issue.

* Defunding. Sounds simple. It's not. First of all, the veto issue exists here too. How far will House Republicans push the issue of eliminating funds for implementing individual PPACA provisions? Worst case: a budget stalemate and shutdown of the federal government - although, to tell the truth, I don't remember the last one being all that bad.

Questions, comments, ideas? E-mail me at john.ortman@sourcemedia.com.

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