Six Illinois Republicans voted to block health insurance subsidies offered through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) until there is a system set up to verify income and other eligibility criteria for applicants. The No Subsidies Without Verification Act, HR 2775 (PDF), passed by a 235-191 vote in the U.S. House Wednesday with yes votes coming from U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL,6), Rodney Davis (R-IL,13), Randy Hultgren (R-IL,14), John Shimkus (R-IL,15), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL,16), and Aaron Schock (R-IL, 18). Only five Democrats voted in favor of the bill.
The legislation, introduced by U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN,6), will block Americans who buy coverage using the health insurance exchange from receiving an average of $2,700 in tax credits. The bill is a knee-jerk reaction to a July announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that grants state-run health insurance exchanges the ability to take some liberties in determining who is eligible for the immediate tax credits that some Americans would receive when buying coverage.
"Because fraud and abuse have been rampant in just about every program that is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, including Medicare and Medicaid, a certified verification system being in place prior to the implementation to the Affordable Care Act is critical," U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX, 26) said during the bill's debate. "The President's strategy on the healthcare law is now: Trust, don't verify."
But critics say the bill is nothing more than a vapid attempt to dilute the success of the health reform law.
“What a waste of the people’s time! Once again, Illinois Republicans and their House colleagues wasted energy on another futile vote to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and instead of trying to make it work," said Marilyn Katz, Illinois consultant for Protect Your Care, in a statement. "They so afraid of Obamacare succeeding that they would intentionally prevent their constituents from receiving tax credits to buy health care. Nearly half of Americans who currently buy health coverage on the individual market will be eligible for tax credits next year, and people who qualify for tax credits are expected to save $2,700. That will all be taken away if this bill were enacted."
“This sabotage strategy is such a bad idea that only six percent of registered voters – and only seven percent of Republicans – support it,” Katz continued. “So why would Illinois Republicans go forward with it? Quite simply, Republicans are scared to death that Obamacare will work as intended. They are throwing everything against the wall to confuse the public and sabotage Obamacare’s implementation."
The bill is not expected to make much headway in the Democratic-controlled Senate. And if it were somehow able to make it through the chamber, the president says he will veto it.
According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the ACA will have an even greater positive impact on those looking to buy insurance using the exchanges than previously thought, with premiums set to be "lower than expected." Katz argues that the No Subsidies bill is part of the GOP's master plan to undermine the health care reform law at every turn.
“Republicans are putting the health and the lives of their own constituents at risk for fear that their extreme and rigid ideology will be proved to be flat wrong." she said. "Already, recent studies have shown their fear tactics on premiums are proving to be wrong; what they call a 'disaster' has already benefited millions of seniors, women and young people. Republicans have railed against Obamacare for years and have lost at every turn – in Congress, at the Supreme Court and last November at the ballot box. Obamacare is the law of the land – it’s not going anywhere and it’s working. It’s time for Republicans to get over it and move on. It’s time House Republicans stop these unnecessary and unreasonable attempts to sink a law that’s ensuring people the affordable health coverage they want, need, and deserve.”
Katz went after Illinois Republicans who voted in favor of the likely ill-fated bill, saying their focus should be on big-ticket subsidies, not small ones meant to help struggling Americans.
“While Reps. Roskam, Schock, Kinzinger, Shimkus, Hultgren and Davis couldn’t wait to vote for this scheme to end subsidies designed to make health care affordable for the middle class, there’s still no word on when they plan to vote to roll back tens of billions of dollars in needless big oil subsidies. “