House majority leader Eric Cantor is promoting legislation that would transfer $4 billion from an Obamacare slush fund to fund a federal program that provides insurance for those with pre-existing conditions.
“It takes money away from Obamacare and makes it more difficult for the administration to implement Obamacare, and at the same time helps sick patients,” Cantor says of the Helping Sick Americans Now Act, in an interview with National Review Online.
According to Cantor’s office, $3 billion will go to fund the federal government’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which was created as part of Obamacare, while the remaining $1 billion will be considered deficit reduction. The funds will come from HHS’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was created by Obamacare to fund public-health initiatives across the country.
“Republicans have always believed that we need health-care reform, and we did not and do not agree with the approach taken in Obamacare,” Cantor says. “Our preference would be to repeal Obamacare.”
“What the bill does is try and address a situation that has come about because of the broken promises of the president under Obamacare,” he adds. “The president promised that he would make sure that patients with pre-existing conditions would not lose access to health care. In Obamacare, starting January 1, there will be a regime in place that will, the president says, follow through in that promise.”
After PCIP closed enrollment in mid-February, some Americans are out of luck until January 2014, when Obamacare’s exchanges, which by law won’t discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, begin providing coverage (enrollment begins in October).
PCIP “ran out of money, and so what is going on now, there are 4,000 patients estimated a month who are going without insurance,” Cantor says.
Dean Clancy, vice president of health-care policy at FreedomWorks, announced his support for the law in a blog post today.
Club for Growth, however, opposes the bill, and announced that make it a “key vote” in grading legislators. “This proposal would further extend the federal government’s role in healthcare,” wrote Andrew Roth, the Club’s vice president for government affairs, in a blog post today. “Because this bill eliminates a previous requirement for enrollees to be uninsured for six months, it creates the moral hazard of avoiding insurance until it is needed and provides an extra incentive for people to enroll in federally-run insurance.”
“Furthermore, this bill does nothing to lower healthcare costs, which should always be the goal of any health reform proposal,” he added.
Cantor’s office acknowledges that the law doesn’t require people with pre-existing conditions to have been uninsured for six months in order to get insurance from PCIP – which was also true of a GOP health-care plan pushed in 2009 – but insists that the lack of that requirement doesn’t create moral hazard (leaving people either unconcerned about preexisting conditions or uninterested in acquiring insurance before they develop one), because it requires that people prove they have already tried to get affordable insurance and failed.