Conservatives Must Oppose Obamacare Bailouts
By Sutton Truluck, Research Assistant at Heritage Action for America.
Last month, Senate Republicans failed to deliver on their seven-year promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Understandably so, many conservatives were left demoralized. Millions of Americans remain stuck with a failing health care law—due in part to Republicans inability to govern how they promised to on the campaign trail.
The House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) was imperfect but would have partially repealed and replaced various components of Obamacare. The Senate bill did not repeal Obamacare either, but it did provide procedural value as a legislative vehicle that would have allowed the House and Senate to go to a conference committee and negotiate a final bill.
Disappointing as this may be, conservatives must continue to pressure Congress on repealing Obamacare. Republicans still control the presidency and both houses of Congress. The budget agreement allowing a healthcare bill to pass the Senate with a simple 51 vote majority instead of the usual 60 votes—a critically important feature of reconciliation—did not disappear during August recess. Reforms are urgently needed and expected by the medical community.
In the meantime, Obamacare should not be artificially propped up by taxpayer bailouts. Conservatives have achieved meaningful successes in this area of healthcare policy—an issue reemerging in the form of subsidies for “cost share reduction” payments to insurance companies. The Obama administration—ignoring inconvenient aspects of its own signature law—unconstitutionally raided billions from Treasury to make these payments.
While it remains unclear how the Trump administration will handle the legal battle over cost-sharing subsidies (a federal court ruled the subsidies unconstitutional—but an Obama administration-initiated appeal remains pending, which Trump could cancel) the legislative fight is clear. The “power of the purse” ultimately lies with Congress and Obamacare currently does not have an explicit funding provision to pay for the subsidies.
In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee announced it will hold hearings in September to consider Obamacare cost-sharing reduction payments and other ways to stabilize (code for bailout) Obamacare. In the House, Democrats have filed amendments with funding provisions to pay for the subsidies on an upcoming omnibus spending bill.
This tactic shows Democrat willingness to shut down the government if Obamacare is not bailed out—and their interest in keeping taxpayer dollars flowing to insurance companies rather than working on essential health care reforms. House Republicans have targeted the cost-sharing subsidies with an amendment filed by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ). The amendment would end controversial cost-sharing contributions for members of Congress and congressional staff.
Conservatives must continue to pressure Republican Senators to take action and repeal Obamacare. We can count on the insurance and hospital industries, faced with growing losses on the increasingly dysfunctional exchanges, to ramp up their bailout lobbying efforts. Consider this recent press clip from the American Medical Association (AMA), a big government and big business collusion group:
“These benefits are essential to making coverage and care affordable for American families who receive them. Clarity and commitment to this funding is needed to eliminate confusion and anxiety for consumers.
You wouldn’t know it from their plea, but health insurers’ profits have risen more than 80 percent since Obama took office in 2008. In fact, they lobbied for the bill at its impetus for the same reason today—receipt of subsidies. The “clarity” AMA demands—as if Obamacare has not been the law of the land for years—is also disingenuous. As noted above, House Republicans challenged the subsidies in court and won. Ideally, the Trump administration will cut off the subsidies until Congress comes back to the negotiating table to find consensus on legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. A bailout of Obamacare admits the status quo is acceptable when doctors, patients, and even insurance companies know it is not.