It’s a man-bites-dog story — House Republicans are trying to help the uninsurable under Obamacare, and House Democrats oppose it.
The House of Representatives will soon vote on a bill from the Energy and Commerce Committee to shift almost $4 billion from an Obamacare slush fund to help people with pre-existing medical conditions. House Republicans are trying to help people who cannot obtain insurance, yet every Democrat on the committee voted against it.
Democrats objected because the funding source, the “Prevention and Public Health Fund,” is all about patronage and greasing political wheels, and that is, for them, more important than helping sick Americans. Some of the $10 billion in the slush fund has already been used by Health and Human Services (HHS) to fund local groups lobbying for higher soda taxes and moratoriums on fast-food outlets; it’s also gone to for pet neutering, bike paths, and community-gardening projects. By design, there is no congressional oversight.
The House bill would drain the remaining slush fund to help provide insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions who are being turned away by the temporary insurance program HHS recently closed to enrollment.
House Republicans are right to ask, “Are not these the very people that President Obama said he wanted to help with Obamacare?”
But HHS, which jealously controls hundreds of billions of dollars in Obamacare funds, objects to being told how to spend this money. House and Senate Democrats, meanwhile, oppose this move because they put a lot of effort into (wrongly) appropriating these monies in the authorization bill for Obamacare, specifically trying to shield these funds from constitutionally defined House budget and taxing authority.
Secretary Sebelius now says that she will also use this slush fund to buy more than $300 million worth of Obamacare TV ads, and to augment another exhausted Obamacare fund meant to pay for the implementation of the health-insurance exchanges. With almost unlimited power to spend money, HHS wants no restraints — even if they’re being directed to help people.
It is notable that House Republicans are more interested in helping the uninsured than the Democrats who tried to cast Obamacare opponents as heartless. Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee would prefer a more market-driven, state-based approach, but this is the most silk they can produce out of the sow’s ear. They have put aside their distaste for the economy-killing health-care law to do what is best for the sick.
Among people who all want the president’s bad law repealed, different groups and legislators see different paths to achieve that goal. Members of the Energy and Commerce committee decided that draining this unsupervised and entirely political slush fund was, on balance, a constructive step toward repeal.
Americans with pre-existing medical conditions will certainly agree with House Republicans on this question, but if the fate of other Obamacare slush funds is any indication, they won’t hear about it from the mainstream media. HHS used another $5 billion piggybank, the Early-Retiree Reinsurance Program, to richly subsidize retirement benefits for the nation’s largest corporations, Obama’s union supporters, and newspapers and TV networks. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and even GE (which owns NBC) received millions, but made no disclosure to readers or viewers (the Associated Press, however, did do so).
Notwithstanding the media’s disinterest, more and more Americans are beginning to realize the painful and avoidable flaws forced upon them by Obamacare. The promises made will almost all prove false, and the law’s destructive effects for medicine, the economy, and individuals will become increasingly apparent.
Now, House Republicans who have voted again and again to repeal the coming disaster are showing that they do care about the shortcomings of our health-care system, and are suggesting a more responsible way to address them.
— Ken Hoagland is chairman of Restore America’s Voice, the grassroots-advocacy group that delivered more than 1.6 million petitions demanding repeal of Obamacare.