Obamacare’s Failures Reveal Split on the Right
In 2009, conservatives and Republicans stood united in their belief that Obamacare was bad medicine. As bureaucrats in Washington attempt to implement the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, those concerns are becoming reality. However, the harsh reality of Obamacare combined with President Obama’s reelection is exposing cracks in the opposition to Obamacare.
Earlier tonight, the House Rules Committee adopted a rule for H.R.1549, the Helping Sick Americans Now Act. The bill, as drafted, would transfer $4 billion from Obamacare’s Prevention and Public Health Fund (a slush fund that should be zeroed out immediately) to reopen the failed federal high-risk pool created by Obamacare.
Obamacare’s federal high-risk pools were projected to cover 375,000 people; however, only 110,000 enrolled before the funding ran out. The cost of enrolling individuals into the federal high-risk pool was 2.5 times higher than anticipated.
Even though the bill throws debt-inducing money after bad, many conservative groups and health care pundits are enthusiastic.
By embracing the “political virtue” of the House GOP plan, the Wall Street Journal and various other conservatives put politics (and bad politics at that) above policy. As originally drafted, the bill would maintain the integrity and structure of Obamacare’s failed federal high-risk pools, which were clearly not a Republican idea.
Concerns surrounding Obamacare’s high-risk pool are as valid now as they were when the bill became law, which is why Heritage Action is not eager to waste another $4 billion of taxpayer money. We share the view of many House conservatives that this was not “incremental progress,” but rather a continuation of Obamacare’s failed coverage.
In response to our substantive policy concerns, House leaders have indicated a willingness to change the underlying bill. The Rules Committee allowed an amendment, which many of our conservative friends were unwilling to fight for, that would move the high-risk pools from the federal domain into the realm of the state.
To be clear, simply boosting Obamacare funding will not get health care reform back on track. Specifically, when it comes to high-risk pools, Heritage’s Nina Owcharenko explains we must “encourage the states to set up mechanisms such as high-risk pools and risk transfer models that help lessen the problems of individuals who are difficult to insure.”
Indeed, the WSJ agreed Obamacare’s federal “high-risk pools are as badly designed as the rest of the entitlement.” Unfortunately, they and others chose to mount a self-defeating rebellion against principled conservatives in the name of “political judgment.”
Heritage Action and many other conservatives are committed to not only the full repeal of Obamacare, but dismantling it at every turn possible. If House Republicans are serious about dismantling the law, they would have fought to zero out the Obamacare slush fund during the previous Continuing Resolution (CR). That would have been real, incremental progress not only on Obamacare, but it also would have prevented another $4 billion from being added to our national debt.
Even with the potential revision, the state-based high-risk pools will be funded with federal money. In a post-Obamacare world with a federal debt nearing $17 trillion, it is more important than ever to reverse the spending on health care.
And as the Journal’s editorial board pointed out on April 11, “there’s no room to avoid Southern European debt levels if we have another recession or an interest-rate spike.” If lawmakers wanted to show the “modicum of spending restraint” the editorial board called for, they would zero out the $4 billion slush fund money, instead of re-purposing it.
Republicans in Congress, and their outside supporters, must demonstrate a serious commitment to dismantling Obamacare and reducing our nation’s ever-growing debt. If the amendment is adopted, the bill would interject some welcome policy changes into our healthcare system, but the use of federal funds remains a serious concern.