J. Mario Molina, M.D., chief executive officer of Molina Healthcare Inc., talked to The Badger Herald Thursday about health care reform and the 2012 elections.

The Badger Herald: Can you talk about what health care reform would look like if each candidate gets elected?

J. Mario Molina: Romney has talked about trying got do away with the Affordable Care Act. If Romney is elected, he at one point talked about using an executive order to get rid of the ACA. Well, it turns out executive orders can only be used to implement laws, not repeal them. So he can’t repeal the ACA by executive order.

Romney could delay the implementation because there are lots of rules and regulations and things that the executive branch has to do to implement the law, so he can certainly slow things down. The only way to repeal it is going to be if Republicans gain control of both the House and the Senate, and they would need probably 60 votes in the Senate, but most people don’t think they’re going to get there.

But it’s likely regardless of who is president, the ACA will remain in place, and it’s really going to be about how it gets implemented. I think if Obama is re-elected, it will be full steam ahead, and they will continue with the implementation process that began a while ago but has been kind of put on hold because of the elections. If Romney is elected, then I think it will still go forward but what he will probably do is grant a lot more freedom to the states.

BH: One provision of the ACA that was popular was students can remain on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26 years old. Would this change if Romney is elected?

Molina: The insurance companies are kicking themselves [over the first provision] because they’re all saying, “Why didn’t we think of this sooner”? If they had allowed students to stay on their parents’ insurance coverage, they would have all these students who have been insured through their companies and that would have meant extra revenue for them.

And students don’t cost you very much because they don’t get sick very much. They are generally healthy young people. I don’t think [that provision] is going to change very much. Even if that part of the law were removed, insurance companies now think it’s a good idea and they’d probably do it on their own.

BH: Is there an issue that neither of the candidates is taking on seriously?

Molina: We ought to be spending a lot more time talking about health care and how much it costs. The fundamental problem in this country is not that people are uninsured. It’s the cost of health care.

If we were able to lower the cost of health care, then everybody would be able to afford insurance. What the ACA does is it expands coverage to everyone, but it doesn’t really do a lot to attack the central problem, which is the high cost of health care. And that’s really what we need to be debating. What are the things that we can do to make sure health care can become affordable?

BH: Are there many other health care reform issues students will get to make an important choice on this election cycle?

Molina: Unfortunately, students don’t really care that much about health care because they’re young, and they’re healthy, and these are things that aren’t a concern to them. Students, I think, are more worried about jobs.

I think that if everyone has insurance, one of the things that should theoretically do is drive down the cost of insurance for everyone. So if that’s the case, then that means there’s more money for things like businesses to create jobs. And that’s why we have to address the high cost of health care coverage. If you are an American business, and you are trying to cover your employees and make a profit, and the cost of health care goes up 10 percent every year, it makes it really hard for you to do that. So from the standpoint of jobs and business, health care does matter. It does get intertwined with all of this.