Today House Republicans pulled a bill from the floor that was intended to embarrass Democrats and undermine the Affordable Care Act. Majority Leader Eric Cantor had sponsored the â€œHelping Sick Americans Now Act,â€ which —
… would siphon $3.6 billion from the Affordable Care Actâ€™s $10 billion prevention and public health fund, aimed at combating disease and promoting wellness, into an underfunded short-term plan to cover people with preexisting conditions until 2014, when the law will begin to ban insurers from denying coverage based on health status.
But the legislation doesnâ€™t reflect a serious long-term effort to address the problem of sick Americans lacking access to health care or getting thrown off their insurance plan. It would shore up a costly and temporary high-risk pool under Obamacare â€” called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan â€” which expires at the end of 2013. Beyond that, Republicans continue to support repealing the rest of the Affordable Care Act, and lack economically feasible plans to address preexisting conditions.
Note that for years Republicans have promoted the idea of dumping people who need lots of medical care into high-risk insurance pools, so that people in the “normal” pool didn’t have to pay so much for insurance. The Affordable Care Act provided for something like that as a temporary fix until 2014, after which insurers can no longer refuse to insure people with pre-existing conditions. The problem is that the high-risk pools sucked up money the way a black hole sucks up matter, so that plan wasn’t really working. Naturally, that was the plan some Republicans decided to like.
However, other Republicans believed the bill would actually strengthen “Obamacare,” and who cares about sick people anyway? So it was scrapped.
The larger point is that the bill had absolutely no purpose except to give Republicans a bogus talking point to use against the President. Even if the Senate were to pass such a bill, the President would veto it. And then the GOP could say he vetoed a bill to help people with preexisting conditions, never mind that Obamacare actually does help people with preexisting conditions.
In other legislative theater news — Republicans have whined for some time that Democrats have not submitted a budget. Evan Soltas writes for Wonkblog,
For the last two years, congressional Republicans have argued that the real problem in the budget debate is that Democrats have abandoned â€œregular order.â€ By regular order, Republicans mean â€” well, Iâ€™ll let Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, explain it.
â€œSecret deals have not worked and are an affront to popular democracy,â€ he argued in January. â€œThe right process is the regular order. The House produces its budgetâ€“as it hasâ€“and the Senate passes its budget, all in accordance with the Budget Act of 1974. Under that law, the Senate Budget Committee must approve a budget resolution by April 1st. From there, the law requires the budget to be considered on the Senate floor where it must receive 50 hours of open amendment and debate. A budget cannot be filibustered and is adopted by a simple majority in both committee and the full Senate. Then, once the issues and differences are clarified by this open process, the work of conferencing must begin.â€
Soltas writes that “regular order” became a sacred totem among congressional Republicans. Well, until the Senate Democrats passed a budget. Now Republicans want to scuttle “regular order” in favor of backroom deals.