Republicans Drop Bill To Extend ACA’s High-Risk Insurance Pool Program
On Wednesday, House Republican leaders withdrew a bill (HR 1549) that would have shifted funds under the Affordable Care Act to sustain the ACA's temporary high-risk insurance pool program, after it was clear that the GOP would not garner enough votes for passage, Reuters reports (Cowan et al., Reuters, 4/24).
The program, called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, was designed to help sick U.S. residents gain coverage ahead of January 2014, when the ACA's ban on denying individuals coverage because of pre-existing conditions is set to take effect.
In February, the Obama administration announced several cost-savings reforms intended to prevent the program from running out of money. HHS then announced that it was halting enrollment in the pools because there were only enough funds to cover current enrollees.
HR 1549 would have shifted about $4 billion from the ACA's Public Health and Prevention Fund to allow continued enrollment in PCIP through the end of the year. In addition, the bill would have eliminated the ACA requirement that individuals be uninsured for at least six months before they can be eligible for coverage in PCIP.
Several conservative groups -- including Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute, FreedomWorks and the Independent Women's Voice -- were opposed to the measure, calling instead for a full repeal of the ACA. On Tuesday, the White House also announced the President Obama would veto the bill if it advanced (California Healthline, 4/24).
Withdrawal of Bill
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pulled the bill after beginning a debate on the measure, signaling that there was a lack of Republican support, according to the Washington Post (Kane, Washington Post, 4/24).
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), the bill's sponsor, on Wednesday acknowledged that some lawmakers were "still hesitant [to support the bill] because they don't want to fix Obamacare" (Kasperowicz/Hooper, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 4/24).
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) during a panel the same day said the bill would be "shifting money from one part of Obamacare we don't support to another part of Obamacare we don't support," adding, "That's a nonstarter" (Sherman, Politico, 4/24).
House GOP aides said lawmakers likely will reintroduce the measure in May after the congressional recess (Reuters, 4/24).
Republican Freshman Call for Full Repeal
Meanwhile, freshman Republican lawmakers are pushing for an opportunity to vote on a full repeal of the health reform law, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
During a Heritage Foundation forum on Wednesday, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) -- a second-term lawmaker -- said, "The guys who have been up here the last two years, we can go home and say, 'Listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace Obamacare.' Tell me what the new guys are supposed to say?"
Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) said he wants the opportunity to vote on a full repeal of the ACA, "even if it's just symbolic."
Republican Study Committee Chair Steve Scalise (R-La.) said he is urging congressional leaders to schedule a repeal vote (Berman, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.