The House on Wednesday approved a measure that would repeal the national health care law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, an account that provides $15 billion over the next decade to state- and community-based preventive health care services.
The measure, H.R. 1217, passed on a 236-to-183 vote, with four Democrats joining all Republicans present to vote in favor. The bill is not likely to progress much further, however. President Obama earlier Wednesday issued a threat to veto the measure.
“The bill neither advances the key objectives of the Affordable Care Act of better and more affordable care nor offers alternative solutions for meeting these important objectives,” the White House statement reads. “It instead repeals the Prevention and Public Health Fund and could worsen the Nation’s health and increase system costs by defunding prevention activities such as programs that promote physical activity, reduce the burden of chronic disease, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use.”
The four Democrats joining Republicans to vote in favor of the measure were Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.).
Democrats have argued that the Prevention and Public Health Fund is key to the health care law’s goal of promoting preventive care in local communities and helping to reduce disease. Republicans have charged that the account is a “slush fund” that gives the health and human services secretary unilateral authority over how to spend funds; they have also said that the preventive care funding should be discretionary rather than mandatory.
The measure represents the latest effort by House Republicans to target the national health care law; a full repeal of the law passed the House at the start of the 112th Congress but was rejected by the Senate.
Since then, only one measure targeting a provision of the law – a bill repealing the unpopular 1099 tax-reporting provision – has passed both chambers. But that provision was not an integral part of the law, and both Democrats and Republicans supported its repeal.
In Wednesday’s floor debate, Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.) expressed frustration with the repeated health care-related votes in the chamber, arguing that House Republicans have allowed for votes on repeal legislation even though the president has vowed to veto such bills.
“How many times are we going to keep voting on the same thing over and over and over again?” Pallone said. “Meanwhile, I don’t see a single piece of legislation coming to this floor addressing jobs and the economy.”
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a doctor who serves as chairman of the Congressional Health Care Caucus, defended Wednesday’s vote, arguing that it was necessary to repeal the health care “slush fund” and criticizing the fund for letting the health and human services secretary “spend this money on any program that he or she deems worthy.”