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April 25, 2013

Re: Good News/Bad News

In response to Drew's post:

There's a whole 'nother side to the story about how conservative members forced House GOP leadership to pull the bill defunding HHS' Obamacare implementation slush fund.

Former guestblogger Ben Domenech wrote about it in this morning's Transom and he's given me permission to excerpt it here:

The Cantor-sponsored shift would’ve accomplished a couple of political goals: it would’ve bolstered a high-risk pool based approach to pre-existing conditions, which has generally been favored on the right, and it would’ve hampered Sebelius’s ability to shift dollars around at whim without going back to Congress for approval. ...

As they tend to do, however, fiscal conservatives split on Cantor effort. It was opposed by the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth, and “Tea Party leader” Brent Bozell. Redstate announced it would be scoring the vote. They described the step, in insulting fashion to anyone who understands the policy involved, as an Obamacare “fix”. This is absurd at best and outright false at worst, and it is unsurprising to see that the tactic had its largest fandom among those most likely to be knee-jerk anti-leadership in every respect. The federal high risk pool is already a temporary measure which expires in 2014: “fixing” it by shifting these funds around is like putting a larger bandaid on cancer.

This type of strategic idiocy has been the mark of conservatives throughout the process of Obamacare’s passage and implementation, so expecting them to be smarter now is probably too much to ask. Whatever the motives of the conservatives who opposed this measure, they have accomplished the following ultimate goal: they’ve made leadership less likely to take up any possible wedge legislation on implementation; they’ve missed an opportunity to bolster the argument that Republicans care about pre-existing conditions; and, most importantly, they’ve made it easier for Sebelius to implement the law, protecting her flexibility to pour money into signing up more young and healthy people into the exchanges to mitigate premium shock – which, as I’ve explained before, represents the final opportunity for at least partial repeal.

I agree with Ben. Conservative health policy used to recognize that there is a problem getting health coverage for high-risk health care consumers with preexisting conditions. The old idea was to let everyone else get insurance through the market, with a small, subsidized high-risk pool for the limited number of folks with preexisting conditions who can't find or afford insurance in the market. Now, I'm not sure what conservatives want.

This plan was to take Sec. Sebelius' implementation funding, which she's been using as a slush fund to pay for all kinds of things (remember those TV ads) to make the Obamacare rollout happen smoothly. That funding would be moved over to the high-risk pool that expires in 2014. I thought seeing that the Obamacare rollout is a disaster is something conservatives would want.

This was a good plan. It showed that Republicans were serious about addressing actual healthcare problems and it was another step on the way to repeal, which conservatives claim to want. Now the GOP has egg on its face, and I can't help but wonder if conservatives want that more than they want Obamacare gone.

The Transom is Ben's daily email newsletter. It is absolutely worth the price of subscription. A sample can be viewed here, if you'd like to take a look.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 12:30 PM

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