Health Law Sparring

The battle over health reform continues today in a House subcommittee, as Republicans push ahead with several bills that would cut out funding from the Obama health reform law.

The legislative effort comes as both parties are working overtime on this issue, each side looking at the same landscapes and coming up with completely different political reviews.

Republicans claim that over $100 billion in automatic funding was included in the health law, and their legislation would do away with that, subjecting any such health spending to yearly approval by the Congress.

"Funding for this law should be subject to the same process as the military, farmers, teachers, medical research and the whole host of government priorities," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA).

But was there really over $100 billion slipped into this bill that couldn't be touched by Congress?

Not according to Doug Elmendorf, the head of the Congressional Budget Office, who said at a hearing Wednesday that "most of those authorizations — accounting for about $85 billion — are for activities that were already being carried out under prior law or that were previously authorized."

"I see you mention in your testimony that $85 billion of that is what actually was just a reauthorization of existing programs like the Indian Health Service or community health centers," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), a strong proponent of the health reform law.

"Yes, that’s right congressman," answered the CBO chief, as Elmendorf said none of the $100 billion in spending Republicans are focused on was somehow 'hidden' in the Obama health law.

But when you flip the coin back to the GOP side, they say with just as much assurance that their bills are needed.

  • One gets rid of "an unlimited amount of funds" for state-based health exchange grants
  • Another does away with $17.5 billion in prevention and public health money
  • A third bill scraps grants to build school-based health centers
  • The fourth gets rid of grants authorized at $75 million a year for five years Those measures are expected to be approved this morning in a subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Are they necessary to ferret out money that was somehow slipped in to the Obama health law? Or is this all politics as Democrats charge?    

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