Upcoming Obamacare Vote Could Haunt House Democrats

Monday, 22 Apr 2013 10:07 AM

By David Yonkman

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House Democrats will be forced to vote this week on a bill that diverts money from an Obamacare program derided by critics as a “slush fund” in order to help Americans with pre-existing conditions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced earlier this year that it would phase out a temporary program for enrolling people with pre-existing conditions in stop-gap insurance plans. The program is designed to insure them until state-based health insurance exchanges go online in 2014.

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The bill up for consideration this week would reinstate the program using money from Obamacare’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which critics say is riddled with waste and abuse.

“House Democrats will have a stark choice — support Obamacare or help sick Americans who need insurance now,” a House leadership aide tells Newsmax. “Even Obamacare supporters know that the law is a train wreck. But simply admitting such won’t help those with pre-existing conditions.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee is expected to track the vote and trumpet it in Democratic districts.

CMS announced in February that it would stop enrolling people in Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP) due to funding constraints, saying it needs any existing funds to cover the healthcare costs of 100,000 people already enrolled in the program through the end of the year.

The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to transfer approximately $4 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to PCIP. The move would allow CMS to enroll sick Americans who have been denied coverage.

“Sick Americans without insurance face lots of hurdles to find good coverage,” one of the bill’s leading co-sponsors, Republican Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, said in a recent statement.

“Five weeks ago, House Republicans asked the president to move additional funds into the Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan that was supposed to help these individuals,” he said in reference to a letter sent by House leaders to the administration. “Since the White House hasn’t answered our appeal, we’ve introduced legislation that would ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can once again have access to this program.”

FreedomWorks, a grass-roots limited-government group, has indicated its support for the measure.

Editor's Note: Should ObamaCare Be Repealed? Vote in Urgent National Poll

“Cannibalizing Obamacare implementation to help sick people? What’s not to like?” Dean Clancy, vice president for public policy with FreedomWorks, told Newsmax.

Clancy said the Prevention and Public Health Fund existed before its use as a marketing tool for Obamacare and has been a source of money for local community projects of all kinds.

“It takes money from the implementation slush fund, which is being used to sign people up for Obamacare — as well as bike paths and gardens — and uses the money to help sick people get health coverage,” Clancy said.

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