Political Animal


April 24, 2013 11:08 AM Fine Old Cannibals

By Ed Kilgore

Last week I wrote about the cynical maneuever by House Republicans to exhibit compassion for those being denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions by shifting money into an underfunded temporary high-risk pool set up by the Affordable Care Act, noting that the Club For Growth was attacking the bill as wasteful and insufficiently deferential to the pathetic efforts of the states in this area. The bill is scheduled for a vote in the House today.

The true measure of this gambit is provided by one of its supporters, FreedomWorks, whose vice president for public policy, Dean Clancy, sent out an open missive on the subject:

Next week, the House may take up a bill (H.R.1549, the Helping Sick Americans Now Act), which has been purported to “fix” a part of ObamaCare, and some conservatives are crying foul.
I think those conservatives are misguided.
They should support the bill, or at least not oppose it….
Contrary to the assertions of some, H.R.1549 doesn’t “fix,” “expand,” or otherwise “improve” ObamaCare. Instead, it effectively cannibalizes ObamaCare to impede its implementation. The bill would transfer $4,000,000,000 (four billion dollars) from an ObamaCare implementation slush fund to a program called the Pre-Existing Condition Plan, or PCIP). The slush fund is a big pot of money the Administration is using to set up exchanges in states that refuse to set them up (a resistance we’ve strongly encouraged). The PCIP is a subsidy for sick people, to help them obtain private health insurance coverage. PCIP is a federal version of the high-risk pool (or as I prefer to call it, preexisting-conditions or preex pool) subsidy that is employed in more than half the states to help private insurance markets work better. Democrats included PCIP in their ObamaCare takeover as a temporary bridge to the new system, which takes full effect on January 1st, 2014. In doing so, the Democrats were implicitly admitting that preex pools are a practical way to help the one percent of Americans who simply can’t access affordable health insurance due to a preexisting medical condition. PCIP is not, in itself, a good program. But if Congress had enacted only PCIP in 2010, instead of ObamaCare, America would be in a much, much better place today.
Now, I agree with those conservatives who hold that preex pool programs should be state- rather than federally run. But the harm here is slight, because PCIP is scheduled to expire on December 31st of this year. It’s a temporary subsidy, remember.
H.R.1549 should be viewed as a tactical maneuver in a larger war, cannibalizing the implementation of ObamaCare exchanges in order to gain leverage in the larger fight for health care freedom.

Pretty plain, eh? Give sick people without insurance temporary access to crappy private plans at exorbitant rates as part of a strategy aimed at pulling the rug out from under them entirely at the end of the year, all the while mewling about one’s concern for sick people.

It makes me sick.

UPDATE: After a closed meeting today, House Republican may pull this bill from the calendar due to conservative opposition to doing anything that might be perceived as “fixing” Obamacare or asserting government responsibility for the uninsured.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • gograff on April 24, 2013 11:32 AM:

    It makes me sick too Ed. But let's hope we don't have any pre-existing conditions, since Freedom Works would prefer we turn into dirt rather than have fellow Americans help one another in times of need. These guys have no soul.

  • Bill Frank on April 24, 2013 11:32 AM:

    Not one of the republican commentators ever talks about helping the poor, the sick or the hungry.

    They just want to screw Obama.

  • exlibra on April 24, 2013 11:34 AM:

    I think I'll have to stop reading about Republicans; I'm running out of disgust.

  • boatboy_srq on April 24, 2013 11:48 AM:

    Shorter GOTea: Why aren't all those sick Other people dead already?

    Remind me again about how the Party of Lincoln is "promoting the general Welfare."

    Captcha: hempAE Grecian. Classical weed? Maybe that's the required treatment.

  • c u n d gulag on April 24, 2013 11:52 AM:

    Nasty Old White Cannibals, you mean.

  • R. Porrofatto on April 24, 2013 12:47 PM:

    You omitted one of the most obscene paragraphs:

    What, you ask, will happen to the PCIP enrollees after December 31st? If ObamaCare kicks in, they will have access to “free” health care coverage from the government. If ObamaCare has been repealed or delayed by then, Congress will have to decide whether to renew the PCIP program. I would urge them not to.

    In other words, sucker them in, and then fuck 'em. Hard to believe they're willing to be so unashamedly cynical and destructive in public.

  • Anonymous on April 24, 2013 1:48 PM:

    "The PCIP is a subsidy for sick people, to help them obtain private health insurance coverage. PCIP is a federal version of the high-risk pool (or as I prefer to call it, preexisting-conditions..."

    Second part of this is correct. But calling PCIP as a subsidy for sick people misses what is actually happening. I am in the PCIP program. I was turned down by HealthNet and Kaiser Permanente for "pre-existing conditions". The actual pre-existing condition here is that I am 63 years old with a variety of minor issues. My PC physician actually asked me what my pre-existing conditions were after he had examined me and my lab work exams. I have no major issues. But insurance companies will use ANY thing on people over 50 or 55, and for sure us 60 something folks, not to take us onto their roles. Our Pre-Con is living long enough to be entering older age where we are absolutely going to need care unless we tumble over dead one day or a heart attack or something.

  • DB on April 24, 2013 2:05 PM:

    That update is delicious.

    So basically, the Republicans had a good plan to start destroying Obamacare with this bill, but for it to actually pass, it has to be presented to the Democrats as being beneficial and helpful to the new system otherwise they won't be tricked into voting with the Republicans in their true agenda to undermine and dismantle healthcare reform.

    But then come in the crazies of the Republican base who are now so jaded by their hatred of everything "Obama" that even a bill meant to start chipping away and tearing down the feared Obamacare can't pass because the wording used to create the guise to fool the enemy party into voting for it, purports that the bill supports Obamacare instead of opposing it.

    Seriously. This seemingly demonstrates an frightening lack of self awareness or consciousness, and yet these are the people that are going to the voting booths and trying to exclude others of the wrong skin complexion from doing so as well. I see this trend of observed "craziness" we characterize in many of the conservative extremists that we have to consider that its going to start bordering up against clinical and diagnosable mental illness, if we are not there already. And if this is indeed happening, then the old expression of what happens when you let the patients run the asylum seems to take on new salience when viewed with the recent actions and policy prescriptions of our tea-party/conservative politicians.

  • RaflW on April 24, 2013 2:25 PM:

    Has it always been that conservative = 0 moral compass?

    Maybe I was sheltered as a youngster, but it sure seems like in the past 10 or 15 years, the conservative movement has become openly hostile to basic human decency.