Since the day Obamacare was passed, it has become an article of faith on the right that it should be repealed. But since that isn’t happening anytime soon, House Republicans are trying to make a change, highlighting the infirmities with the new plan.
The Galen Institute’s Grace-Marie Turner, a dogged opponent of Obamacare, explains:
The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on legislation that would extend this safety net, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program, and it would do so with money from an Obamacare ”slush fund.”
The Helping Sick Americans Now Act (H.R. 1549) is a win-win. Providing insurance to people with pre-existing conditions was a key motivation for passage of Obamacare in the first place, and the House leadership is right to propose legislation that will continue this coverage.
Allowing the pre-existing-conditions pool to accept applicants will make delaying the implementation of the exchanges more feasible, just as such a delay looks increasingly necessary.
Obamacare initially allocated $5 billion for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which was designed to provide temporary bridge coverage for those most needing insurance until the health law takes full effect in 2014. . . . But the Obama administration has already closed the plan to new customers, saying it needs the remaining funds to cover the medical costs through the end of the year of the 100,000 or so people already enrolled.
In essence, House Republicans are trying to prevent the Obama administration from borrowing from Peter to pay Paul while staking out the position that they support some form of high-risk pools. (Ironically, Republicans’ support for high-risk pools has been ridiculed by the left.) Leadership staff explained to me in a phone call today that, since the funds are going to be spent anyway, it’s better to redirect the money to the sickest individuals. Moreover, getting Obamacare to collapse under its own weight is both smart politically and a step in the direction of finding a conservative alternative.
The bill is opposed by a weird gaggle of inflexible characters — Club for Growth, Heritage Action and AARP, among others. In support are disease patient community groups, FreedomWorks and Americans for Tax Reform. Turner notes, “This safety net makes sense politically, offers a solution that helps vulnerable people, and redirects existing Obamacare spending to actually helping sick people. But conservatives have to give up their circular-firing-squad habit.”
In a written statement, Grover Norquist of ATR makes the argument which should carry the day with conservatives:
H.R. 1549 would take four years of funding from Obamacare’s ‘Prevention and Public Health Fund’ and re-deploy the money to a high risk pool. This slush fund has turned into a political grab bag of patronage and bribery in its short life. . . . .Even more importantly, this slush fund is the source of funding for advertising Obamacare exchanges. $354 million will be used to advertise to American families that they must comply with an individual mandate they didn’t ask for and don’t want. H.R. 1549 would put a stop to that.
What does the bill use the slush fund money for instead? First, it returns over $1 billion to the Treasury to achieve deficit reduction. Second, it uses the balance of the fund to support a high risk pool, a mechanism where people too sick to get insurance on the open market can become qualified to do so. Not only is this a much better use of the money (after all, a healthcare law should be spending money on healthcare, not lobbyists and ad men), it has a long history of GOP support. High risk pool funding has been in every conservative health policy reform plan for a generation.
He’s right. The question, as often in the House these days, is whether the perfect will be the enemy of the good.