What if you had to choose between making insurance more affordable for Americans with pre-existing conditions or funding lobbyists and political hacks? That's the decision the House will face when it considers H.R. 1549, the Helping Sick Americans Now Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania. It should be an easy choice.
Earlier this month, Susan Zurface of Hillsboro, Ohio testified before Rep. Pitts's health subcommittee.
"With my newly diagnosed illness, I was unable to find any health insurance coverage that would cost less than $350/month with a $10,000 deductible," the chronic lymphocytic leukemia patient said. The federal Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) was supposed to be there for people like her, but the administration closed it to new enrollees on March 2, citing a lack of funding.
The news stunned a woman identified by the Washington Post as Joyce, a 61-year-old Virginian with stage-four breast cancer, who saw the announcement and rushed to get her application in before the cut-off. I don't know whether Joyce was able to make the deadline or not, but I do know there are an estimated 40,000 other sick Americans, including Ms. Zurface, who will not be able to enroll if the program remains closed.
There is a simple solution. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has transfer authority under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to move money from the so-called Prevention and Public Health Fund (Prevention Fund) to the PCIP. If she chooses, she could use those funds to reopen PCIP enrollment and ensure that sick Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to the program. On March 5, House Republican leaders wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to reprogram those funds. Neither Obama nor Sebelius has responded or taken any action.
Perhaps that's because there are political incentives to keep the money where it is in the Prevention Fund, which is mostly in the business of doling out grants to activists, lobbyists, and P.R. pros to agitate for "public health" priorities like tobacco restrictions and anti-obesity campaigns including soda taxes, fast food restaurant bans, and changes to zoning codes to block convenience stores.
These Centers for Disease Control (CDC) grants, originally funded by the stimulus bill and continued via the Prevention Fund under PPACA, have been proven to include at least seven instances of directly funding lobbyists - a violation of federal law.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book Democracy Denied.
American Commitment is dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.
Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Kerpen to their "Guest List" in 2008 and The Hill newspaper named Mr. Kerpen a "Top Grassroots Lobbyist" in 2011.
Mr. Kerpen's op-eds have run in newspapers across the country and he is a frequent radio and television commentator on economic growth issues.
Prior to joining American Commitment, Mr. Kerpen served as vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Kerpen has also previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Kerpen currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Joanna and their daughter Lilly.