House votes to ban funds for state health exchanges

The GOP said the measure would save billions. It's unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate.

Posted: May 04, 2011

WASHINGTON - The Republican-controlled U.S. House, in another effort to dismantle last year's health-care overhaul, voted Tuesday to ban federal grant money to help states set up health-insurance exchanges.

The measure passed, 238-183, over objections from President Obama, who last year pushed through Congress the care law to expand health coverage to the uninsured. The law requires Americans to obtain insurance, with subsidies and purchasing exchanges to help them.

Republicans, who took over control of the House in January, vowed to undo the law and have voted to repeal it. The repeal measure has not advanced in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sponsored Tuesday's measure 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. The grants, he said, will create "an unlimited tap on the federal Treasury."

Democrats said the bill was another effort to prolong the debate over the health-care law and was distracting from more important matters.

"We're not focusing on the big issues the American people care about with this bill," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D., Calif.). "This is another piece of legislation that is going nowhere. The Senate will never pass it and the president will never sign it."

The administration said the legislation would erode efforts to make health care more available and affordable.

In a statement, the White House said: "Exchanges will allow Americans to compare prices and health insurance plans and decide which quality, affordable option is right for them." It said Obama's aides would recommend a veto if the measure cleared Congress.

According to the White House statement, the grants are needed for states to develop the exchanges, and the legislation would mean that about 500,000 Americans who the health-care law envisions would be insured in 2015 would go without coverage.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on legislation to block federal funding for construction of health-care centers in schools, as provided in the health overhaul.

Republicans say the measure, sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R., Texas), would save $100 million from 2012 to 2021, citing figures from the Congressional Budget Office.

The administration objects to this measure as well, saying that expanding health centers will improve children's access to primary care. The measure would be unlikely to get a vote in the Senate.

How They Voted

Representatives from the Philadelphia area who voted to block funds for states to set up health-

insurance exchanges were Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting against the bill were Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.),

Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).

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