House GOP breaks from repeal effort, gets change in ObamaCare
House Republicans have secured a change in ObamaCare to expand
coverage choices for small businesses -- a departure from their strategy
to try to dismantle or repeal the 2010 health care law.
The change eliminated a cap on deductibles for small group policies
American can buy directly from insurers or on the new health care
exchanges. The cap was set at $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for
Democrats describe the change as a straightforward improvement of the type they are eager to make, and Obama signed it into law.
Republicans say they sought the change so small businesses could
offer high-deductible plans that could be bought by individuals who also
have health savings accounts.
"Maybe you say it helps (ObamaCare), but it really helps the small
businessman," said GOP Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., one of several
physician-lawmakers in his party and an advocate of repeal.
The tax-preferred accounts are a long-time favorite of many
Republicans, who say they give consumers greater control over their own
No member of the House GOP leadership has publicly hailed the fix,
which was included in legislation preventing a cut in payments to
doctors who treat Medicare patients.
It is unclear how many members of the House rank and file knew of the
relatively minor change because the legislation was passed by a highly
unusual voice vote without debate.
Several lobbyists and Republican aides who monitored the issue said
the provision reflects a calculation that no matter how hard the party
tries, the earliest the law can be repealed is after Obama leaves office
in 2017. In the meantime, according to this line of thinking,
small-business owners need all the flexibility that can get to comply
"I was brought up in a family of 12. My mother taught me to be
patient," said Rep. Tom Reed of New York, who backed a stand-alone bill
to make the same change.
The health law contains no deductible caps for individual plans or
those offered by large employers, and the Department of Health and Human
Services already had waived them for small businesses through 2015. The
legislation means they will never go into effect.
As yet, there is no indication the change in course heralds any sort
of significant pre-election change in attitude by Republicans, who last
week engineered their 52nd vote in the House to repeal or dismember the
law. They have said they intend to make its elimination a key element in
the November election.
Meanwhile, administration officials announced last week that more
than 7 million people have signed up for coverage. Democrats hope to
counter demands for repeal by challenging critics to explain why they
want to eliminate some of politically popular provisions such as
guaranteed of coverage for pre-existing condition or plans without a
lifetime cap in coverage costs.
Asked if the legislation strengthened the law, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "I would hope so."
He added, "So there are changes being made. But the Republicans have
to get over if they hate `ObamaCare' and are going to repeal it," he
Rory Cooper, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor,
R-Va., said, "This is another in a series of changes to Obamacare that
the House has supported to help save Americans from being harmed by the
law, and we're glad to see the President signed it into law.
Cantor was involved in negotiations on the legislation, which were overseen by Reid and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
While Cooper described the change merely as one of several designed
to prevent harm, the episode marks the first time Republicans have
agreed to make it easier for anyone to obtain coverage under the law.
According to a list maintained by the office of the House Republican
whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, five of the eight previous
changes signed by Obama reduced funding; one repealed a minor voucher
provision; one jettisoned a section dealing with home care for the
elderly; and the other eliminated a tax reporting requirement.
In this case, though, large business organizations that support repeal pressed Republicans to make the change.