House Republicans plan to vote on a bill on Wednesday that would shift money from the portion of Obamacare that invests in prevention and use it to expand a temporary initiative that has helped individuals and families with pre-existing medical conditions obtain coverage.
The Helping Sick Americans Now Act would move $4 billion from the Affordable Care Act’s $10 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund into the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), a program of high-risk pools that has provided coverage to uninsured Americans who didn’t have an offer of insurance from an employer and couldn’t find a plan in the individual market. The PCIP was designed as a bridge to the exchanges, which will become operational in 2014, but the $5 billion program stopped accepting new enrollees in February.
“Like in so many other areas, the President’s health care legislation failed to adequately protect sick patients with pre-existing conditions, like those battling cancer,” Rory Cooper, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), told Talking Points Memo. “House Republicans are determined to do so by taking funding from a slush fund and moving it where it is critically needed.”
But while insuring high-cost individuals in separate pools has long been a staple of Republican health policy, the Prevention Fund also supports GOP-backed priorities. The Fund has invested in community and clinical prevention, research, public health infrastructure, immunizations and screenings, tobacco prevention and public health workforce and training — measures that Republicans touted as critical to lowering health care costs:
— Former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) argued that “one of the things we did in the health care legislation was to provide a lot of different incentives for preventive care.” [7/12/2010]
— Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said the law’s emphasis on preventive care is good “because it costs less to keep people well than to treat them when they’re sick.” [10/18/2010]
— Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “Congress should be able to work together on our practical ideas that the American people support, such as reforming our medical liability laws to discourage junk lawsuits…encouraging wellness and prevention programs that have proved to be effective in cutting costs and improving care.” [8/26/2010]
— Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA): “I am an original cosponsor of S. 1099, the “Patients’ Choice Act,” …. The legislation would make health care coverage accessible and affordable for all Americans through private insurance coverage, while also promoting prevention and wellness which can improve lives and lower long-term medical costs. [7/19/2009]
Now, the party is seeking to undermine one priority to fund the other, even after repeatedly voting to repeal Obamacare and eliminate the PCIP and the Prevention Fund.
Unable to secure enough votes from conservative members, Republicans pulled the bill off the floor on Wednesday afternoon. A spokesperson for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters, “We intend to bring the bill back up when Congress returns in May.”