Wednesday, October 11, 2017

De-Funding Obamacare

It is odd that even after a bill becomes a law, it can be defunded, thereby effectively killing it even though it has not been voted down.  One would think that it would be required to pass the funding that is required by the law. The Republican Party has strategized on how to deconstruct Obama’s health-insurance law through various means.

Republicans could turn to the annual appropriations and budget process or push stand-alone bills to delay or stop funding for provisions of the law they dislike, including the individual mandate, the health insurance exchanges and the Medicaid expansion. They might also work to weaken provisions in the bill that deal with Medicare physician reporting requirements that some physicians find onerous and block the creation of a nonprofit research institute to examine the effectiveness of various medical treatments. Mandatory funding, which comprises much of the health measure that began in 2014, will continue unless Republicans can change current law. Discretionary funding must be approved each year but differences between House and Senate versions of appropriations measures must be ironed out and that generally produces a compromise package. Why all of the law’s funding would not be mandatory as part of the law defies logic and government functioning. Also, how the mandatory funding could comprise much of the law when the individual mandate, the exchanges, and the medicaid expansion can be defunded, is also beyond me.

A major problem with the defunding strategy is that since so much of the bill is inter-related, trying to dismantle it piecemeal could lead to unintended consequences. While the individual mandate is unpopular, “you can’t pull it out of the law without all sorts of other elements falling apart,” Reischauer says. And scrapping the mandate, which requires most people to have coverage or pay a penalty, would anger health insurers — a core GOP constituency. Insurers have agreed to abide by new consumer protections, such as not denying coverage based on a pre-existing medical condition, in exchange for 32 million new customers. Hospitals agreed to payment cuts on the premise that more people would have health care and hospitals would have less uncompensated care. In other words, because the health insurance industry got basically what it wanted—the mandate without a public option—it would be highly unlikely that certain parts of the law would be defunded unless it were in the interest of the health insurance companies.  Therefore, the mandate is not apt to be defunded unless the rest of the law is to go down too.

I contend that law should not be allowed to be defunded. That is, upon passage, the law should have its required funding established as a matter of law.  Secondly, I contend that private companies with a vested interest in a law should not be allowed to have such power that they can tailor the law to their liking. Extant industries have too much power in the US Government.  As a reflection of this condition, we over-rely on private companies and the market—ignoring their downsides. Where basic necessities such as access to basic health-care is concerned, our over-reliance can be fatal.