EDITORIAL: An Ounce of Obamacare Prevention
April 23, 2013
Congressional Republicans have mapped out another way to obstruct ObamaCare, thanks to the incompetence of its architects. It’s a shame certain absolutists on the right are mounting another self-defeating rebellion in the name of the impossible.
The insurrection comes as the Health and Human Services Department has already burned through all the dollars appropriated by the Affordable Care Act for implementation. HHS is now demanding an extra $5.9 billion to set up the law’s insurance exchanges—$2 billion more than it estimated it would take last year—but both Senate Democrats and the House denied the request last month.
HHS responded by announcing that it would simply steal however many dollars it needs from a separate ObamaCare slush fund. Supposedly devoted to “prevention,” this cash has been funneled to everything from bike-path signs to patronage for liberal pressure groups lobbying for fast-food taxes. Now HHS is reaching into this till for at least $454 million this year, with no accountability.
The House leadership wants to zero out $5 billion from the prevention fund so HHS can’t spend it on the ObamaCare exchanges and instead transfer the money to a different ObamaCare program that insures people with pre-existing medical conditions. That program has also run out of money and is closed to new applicants. …
The political virtue of this House GOP squeeze play is that it stands an actual chance of passage in the Senate. Democrats would be forced to choose between coverage for sick people now versus the HHS money pit. It also blocks President Obama from blaming Republicans for the failure of his own pre-existing conditions program.
The House bill passed the Energy and Commerce Committee with all Republicans in favor, but now some conservative opponents have cropped up to claim the measure would “fix” or “expand” ObamaCare. …
The critics condemning this maneuver as a sellout are upset that it doesn’t repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, as if that is realistic under President Obama. The House has voted 36 times to do just that. Does the bill need to include a balanced-budget amendment too?
We were charter members of the anti-ObamaCare movement when Heritage was still pitching for RomneyCare and the individual mandate. We’re all for repealing it now, in part or preferably in whole, whenever that becomes possible. But the effort also requires political judgment about when to settle for incremental progress.
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