House Voted to End State Health Exchange Funding

A new Republican measure put forth in the U.S. House of Representatives could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars, but it will most likely not see the light of day in the Senate. The House is currently controlled by the GOP, and has been a source of several pieces of anti-health reform legislation which has ultimately been struck down by the Democrat-controlled Senate or vetoed by President Obama.

The legislation was another attempt by conservatives to stop or hinder the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This particular measure would strip the new state health care exchanges proposed by the PPACA from receiving federal startup funding. These health care exchanges would provide citizens without employer funded health insurance a place to shop and compare health insurance for themselves. The exchanges would also offer citizens subsidies and insurance-purchasing exchanges to assist them in the process.

Republicans took over the House in January with the resolution to undo the PPACA, and have since voted to repeal the law. The repeal measure hasn’t made any headway in the Senate.

“Repealing the fund will protect precious taxpayer resources at a time of record red ink,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.), who is the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which was the sponsor for  the measure. He said not giving federal funds to the state exchanges would help save $14 billion or more by 2021.

“Repealing the fund will protect precious taxpayer resources at a time of record red ink,” said Rep. Upton on the House floor. These startup-funding grants, Upton said, would create “an unlimited tap on the federal Treasury.”

Democrats responded by saying the bill was another delaying and prolonging tactic designed to lengthen the debate over the PPACA, and was a distraction from other, more important, matters.

“We’re not focusing on the big issues the American people care about with this bill,” stated Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D., Calif.). “This is another piece of legislation that is going nowhere. The Senate will never pass it and the president will never sign it.”

The executive branch said that this legislation was only designed to erode the administration’s efforts to make health care both more affordable as well as available.

A statement from the White House read: “Exchanges will allow Americans to compare prices and health insurance plans and decide which quality, affordable option is right for them.” It recounted that Obama’s aides would recommend that he veto the measure if it cleared Congress.

The White House also affirmed that these startup grants are necessary for the states to develop their own exchanges, and that the legislation would result in around 500,000 Americans going without health care coverage in the absence of the exchanges.

The House is expected to vote on additional legislation for blocking federal funds from contributing to health-care centers in educational centers and schools, which is an additional provision of the health care overhaul.

The Republican measure is sponsored by Texas Rep. Michael Burgess. He says that this legislation would save $100 million during the 2012-2021 period, according to figures from the Congressional Budget Office.

The administration also objects to this measure, stating that by expanding health care centers in schools that children’s access to more and better primary care would be greatly improved. This measure is also unlikely to get voted on in the Senate.