House Votes to Bar U.S. Funding for Insurance Exchanges

The Republican-controlled U.S. House, trying again to dismantle last year’s health-care overhaul, voted to ban federal grant money to help states set up health-insurance exchanges.

Democrats said there’s no chance the Senate will approve the measure. The House passed it 238-183 yesterday over objections from President Barack Obama, who last year pushed through Congress the law to expand health-care coverage. The law requires Americans to get insurance, with help from subsidies and purchasing exchanges.

The House followed up today by passing a bill to ban federal funds to build health-care centers in schools, as provided in the overhaul law. It also approved legislation to prevent any federal funds from being used for health benefits that include abortion coverage. U.S. policy already prohibits federal money from being used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.

Republicans, who took control of the House from Democrats in November’s elections, have vowed to undo the health-care law and in January voted to repeal it altogether. The repeal measure hasn’t advanced in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

$14 Billion

Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sponsored the legislation on health-insurance exchanges and said it would save more than $14 billion by 2021.

“Repealing the fund will protect precious taxpayer resources at a time of record red ink,” Upton said on the House floor yesterday. The grants will create “an unlimited tap on the federal Treasury.”

Democrats said the bill is another effort to prolong the debate over the health-care law and is a distraction from more important issues.

“We’re not focusing on the big issues the American people care about with this bill,” said Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat. “This is another piece of legislation that is going nowhere. The Senate will never pass it and the president will never sign it.”

The Obama administration said the legislation erodes efforts to make health care more available and affordable.

Compare Prices

“Exchanges will allow Americans to compare prices and health insurance plans and decide which quality, affordable option is right for them,” the administration said in a statement. It said Obama’s aides would recommend a veto if the measure cleared Congress. The president’s aides also would recommend a veto of the abortion measure.

The grants are needed for states to develop the exchanges, and the legislation would mean about 500,000 Americans who the current law envisions would be insured in 2015 would go without coverage, according to the statement from the White House.

Republicans say the bill on school health-care centers, sponsored by Representative Michael Burgess of Texas, would save $100 million from 2012 to 2021, citing figures from the Congressional Budget Office.

The Obama administration also objects to this legislation, saying expanding health centers will improve children’s access to primary care. It would be unlikely to get a vote in the Senate.

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