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House Spending Bill Cuts Funding For Exchanges

You don’t hear much these days about Republicans trying to repeal the 2010 health care law. The Supreme Court ruling last June upheld most of the measure. President Obama’s re-election and Democrats’ continued control of the Senate have helped “Obamacare” implementation to move ahead.

Photo by Karl Eisenhower/KHN

But there is one way to slow things down: use the power of the purse.

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation to fund the government through Sept. 30.  The measure keeps “sequestration” — the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that began March 1 – in place. The bill would fund the government beyond March 27 when the current “continuing resolution” expires.

According to Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat who is the ranking  member of the House Appropriations Committee, the measure will delay implementation of the health law’s exchanges scheduled to begin enrolling individuals in October.

“Without IT infrastructure to process enrollments and payments, verify eligibility and establish call centers, health insurance for millions of Americans could be further delayed,” Lowey said in a statement.

Funding for the health law’s implementation is one of many areas of federal spending cut as part of sequestration.

The House measure passed mostly along party lines by a vote of 261-151 but more than 50 Democrats supported the bill. Many Senate Democrats are expected to oppose the package, which is likely to be modified.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., said Wednesday he plans to offer an amendment on the floor that would delay funding of the 2010 health law.  Cruz has also introduced legislation to repeal the law.

The health law “should not be implemented at [a] time when our economy is struggling so mightily, at a time when its implementation could push us into a full recession,” he said in a statement.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky. praised passage of the House bill.

“The House did the right thing today by passing this legislation,” Rogers said. “As we try to get our fiscal house in order, it’s important to come together on issues where we can agree – avoiding a government shutdown, providing our people with essential services, and supporting our troops and veterans.”