They all chant 'ACA repeal' but what could a GOP president actually do?

Among the more grandiose claims repeatedly being pledged along the Republican presidential campaign trail is that each of the hopefuls would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) – but does a president even have that power?

[See also: 'Obamacare' a lightning rod, but what about health IT?.]

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, for instance, have mentioned signing an executive order on day one, if either were elected. Such a document, however, is merely the beginning of a lengthy process. Ron Paul, a former Air Force surgeon, has a long list of how he would improve America’s healthcare system, including expanding health savings accounts and adding some tax breaks. And Rick Santorum promises to institute patient-centered healthcare after repealing the ACA.

Repeal. That’s the big healthcare promise candidates are vowing to prospective voters but, in reality, it simply cannot be accomplished in one day, if it can be delivered at all.

Only Congress can repeal the ACA

Joseph Antos (pictured at left), an analyst for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is skeptical about presidential election healthcare promises. “Politicians operate on the concept that anything they promise, they don’t have to keep,” he says.

Antos is not naïve when it comes to Washington and healthcare. In addition to conducting research on the economics of health policy for AEI, he is a commissioner of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission and a health adviser to the Congressional Budget Office.