This was a vote on final passage of legislation repealing a provision of a major health care reform law that provided federal funds to states for health insurance “exchanges”--regulated marketplaces in which the uninsured could purchase subsidized health insurance. The 2010 health care reform measure—which was signed into law by President Obama and established near-universal health care coverage—the federal government was set to provide federal funding to states to establish health insurance exchanges in 2014. This bill rescinded federal funding for those state-based exchanges.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) urged support for the bill: “Repealing the fund [for the exchanges] will protect precious taxpayer resources at a time of record red ink. Rampant spending on the Federal credit card is unsustainable and certainly dangerous. And the federal government is now going to be borrowing 42 cents of every dollar for these grants, $58,000 every second. Just think about this. We're facing a $1.6 trillion deficit, and the President's budgets will nearly double the national debt from $14 trillion to $26 trillion….This bill is about accountability to taxpayers and fiscal responsibility in the Congress. I urge my colleagues to support this bill that will reduce the deficit by $14 billion.”
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) also supported the bill: “Republicans are not necessarily opposed to the concept of these exchanges…So we're not really having a debate on whether exchanges are good or bad. I can agree…that, in concept, exchanges are good. Now, I could have a debate that if you are going to have exchanges you ought to let the market operate and determine what's offered in the exchanges and not mandate what has to be qualified in order to be a part of the exchange. And we could have a debate on what the premiums are and what the coverage is and whether you allow flexibility or whether you put these Federal mandates on what has to be in the health care plan to be part of the exchange, but that's a different debate. The debate today…is should the Secretary of Health and Human Services have the ability to obligate, without any constraints by the Congress, such sums as necessary to empower and fund these health exchanges. We say `no.’”
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) opposed the bill: “First, the bill will leave people uninsured. This legislation…will result in lower enrollment by an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent below the levels expected under current law between 2014 and 2016. In other words, there would be almost 2 million fewer people enrolled in state exchanges. Second, it will increase the costs to employers as they continue to fight off a sluggish economy. Third, it will increase costs to consumers through increased premiums in the individual [health insurance] market. Fourth, without Federal assistance, fewer states would be able to set up and operate state-run exchanges. Currently, 49 States, the District of Columbia and four territories have gotten beyond the ideological debate that we are having over and over again in this House, and they have responded by asking for funds so they can do the job of setting up a marketplace in which it would be best for families and businesses to choose their health insurance.”
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) also opposed the bill: “I rise in the strongest opposition to this shortsighted legislation….the exchanges this bill targets will make a clear impact, making it easier for individuals and small businesses to shop for insurance based on quality and price. They will provide the key structure to ensure the numerous consumer protections in the law are followed, and they will make the health insurance market both more competitive and more transparent. Furthermore, the exchange program gives States flexibility to build the best plan they can to meet the unique needs of their residents….Many states are poised to move from planning to implementation. However, repeal would stop this development in its tracks.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 238-183. Voting “yea” were 233 Republicans and 5 Democrats. 183 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation repealing a provision of a major health care reform law that provided federal funds to states for health insurance exchanges. President Obama, however, had indicated he would veto the bill if it were to reach his desk.