July 12 2012

Yesterday's Repeal Vote: It Mattered

Charlotte Hays

Although the mainstream media is going out of its way to portray yesterday’s vote in the House to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—as bo-ring (here and here), it wasn’t.

Republicans know that they have only so much time to repeal this massively unpopular law, and yesterday’s vote helped keep the issue on the front burner.

It also gave an insight into the strength of Democratic support for the bill, which now can be described as a tax: five Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans. The tally was 244 to repeal and 185 against.

This did show some wavering on the part of Democrats. But it also seems to indicate that, even if there is no longer a Democrat in the White House to bolster support for the law, Democrats by and large are likely to stick with this monstrosity.

Rep. Paul Ryan said that repeal will require at least 50 GOP senators last night on Fox and also to the Weekly Standard:  

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Republicans will be able to "effectively repeal" Obamacare with a simple-majority vote in the Senate if they control Congress and the White House in 2013. By using the budget reconciliation process, repeal of Obamacare would not have to get the standard 60 votes needed to break a filibuster in the Senate.

"I feel very confident we can effectively repeal the law through reconciliation. Whether we can get every line and subsection of the bill will be a question up to the Senate parliamentarian at the end of the day," Ryan says. "But the guts of this bill are all fiscal matters, which are clearly included in reconciliation."

"There's one more chance, just one more chance, to get at this law," says Ryan. "And it's this election." If Republicans hold the House of Representatives and take the Senate and White House in November, Ryan says Republicans clearly will be able to repeal "all of the spending, the subsidies, the taxes, the mandates" in Obamacare. "That effectively repeals the law."

Even so, there may be traces left, Ryan said:

But it's not clear if the Senate parliamentarian, who is appointed by the Senate majority leader, would allow some of Obamacare's insurance regulations to be repealed through reconciliation.

Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, puts the window of opportunity for overturning the law at two years—after that, it becomes embedded in the bureaucracy, and we are stuck with it.

The irony, Matthews writes, is that nobody would miss Obamacare. The benefits were over-hyped. Perhaps the most often-cited plus of Obamacare concerns pre-existing conditions. Matthews says supporters of the bill misrepresented this: 

One of the most cited "benefits" of the law, which doesn't take effect until 2014, is the provision prohibiting health insurers from declining an applicant because of a pre-existing medical condition, known as "guaranteed issue." Yet the problem, while it is real for some people, was never as big as the president claims.

The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (known as Hipaa) set standards in the employer-based group market—where 170 million Americans get their coverage—that largely eliminated pre-existing condition exclusions. In addition, Hipaa allows insured workers who lose or change their job to get new coverage without a waiting period.

But this isn’t the only oversold “benefit:”

Lately, the president has been touting the "free" preventive care provision, which recently blew up in a fight over forcing religiously affiliated organizations to provide coverage for contraceptives, even if that violates their religious beliefs. The reality is that most standard group insurance policies already cover preventive care, including several contraceptive options—although there may be a small copay. The new benefits aren't "free," as the president claims. Either insurers or employers—and ultimately employees—will pay for them.

I do think that the media is right that the public is sick and tired of the debate over health care—the initial passage, with the deals and a Congress determined to go full spead ahead, no matter the public concerns, was traumatic for the nation. We'd like to put this behind us. But being tired of watching Congress behaving badly isn’t quite the same as wanting the nation to be saddled with this monstrous system.

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