Conn Carroll

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) came under fire this weekend after the Drudge Report linked to an Associated Press article using the headline "Republicans expand Obamacare."

And reading the AP article, one can see why Drudge used that headline. Under the header "GOP seeks coverage choices in health law they hate," AP writer David Espo reported:

At the prodding of business organizations, House Republicans quietly secured a recent change in President Barack Obama's health law to expand coverage choices, a striking, one-of-a-kind departure from dozens of high-decibel attempts to repeal or dismember it.

Unfortunately Espo's reporting is just plain false. There was nothing one-of-a-kind about the "recent change" House Republicans passed on Obamacare. In fact, not only did the law shrink the size and scope of the federal government by repealing a specific portion of Obamacare, it fits into a long line of previous House Republican measures that have done the same.

And all have been signed by President Obama.

But first, here are the specifics of last weeks change according to the AP:

The provision itself was relatively minor. It eliminated a cap on deductibles for small group policies offered inside the law's health care exchanges as well as outside; the cap was set at $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families.

Republicans said they sought it so small businesses can offer high-deductible plans that could be purchased by individuals who also have health savings accounts. These tax-preferred accounts are a long-time favorite of many Republicans, who say they give consumers greater control over their own health care.

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.

So the change in question: 1) repealed part of Obamacare; 2) reduced federal government health care regulations; 3) made the health care market more market orientated; and 4) will lower health premiums for small business. Why would any conservative not vote for this?

More importantly, this is not the first time House Republicans have managed to get Obama to sign a partial repeal of his signature domestic accomplishment. As the list partially prepared by Boehner's office below shows, Republicans have now successfully repealed or defunded parts of Obamacare eight times:

  1. H.R. 4: Repealed the small business paperwork (“1099”) mandate: The paperwork mandate was called “one of Washington’s dumbest ideas” – it would have destroyed jobs and “hit start-ups hardest, not to mention farms, charities and churches.” House Republicans kept their Pledge to America and repealed it. H.R. 4 also reduced exchange subsidy overpayments by $25 billion.
  2. H.R. 1473: Cut $2.2 billion from a “stealth public plan” and froze the IRS budget: H.R. 1473 undermined ObamaCare by cutting $2.2 billion from the “Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan” (CO-OP) program – a “stealth public plan.” It saved $400 million by eliminating “Free Choice Vouchers,” which The Hill warned “could lead young, healthy workers to opt out” of their employer plans, “driving up costs for everybody else.” And it ensured the IRS wouldn’t receive additional funding for new agents to enforce the president’s health care law.
  3. H.R. 674: Saved taxpayers $13 billion by adjusting eligibility for ObamaCare programs: This bill not only repealed a devastating IRS withholding tax – it saved taxpayers $13 billion by changing how the eligibility for certain programs is calculated under ObamaCare. Without the change, a couple earning as much as much as $64,000 could still qualify for Medicaid.
  4. H.R. 2055: Made more cuts to CO-OPs, IPAB, IRS: This bill shaved another $400 million off the CO-OPs; cut another $305 million from the IRS to hamper its ability to enforce the law’s tax hikes and mandates; and rescinded $10 million from the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) of bureaucrats, to which Republican leaders are declining to recommend appointments.
  5. H.R. 3630: Slashed billions from ObamaCare slush funds: Republicans fought for another $11.6 billion in savings, saving taxpayers $5 billion from the Prevention & Public Health slush fund, $2.5 billion from ObamaCare’s “Louisiana Purchase,” and more.
  6. H.R. 4348: Saved another $670 million from the “Louisiana Purchase”: This saved another $670 million by further adjusting a drafting error that made the “Louisiana Purchase” even costlier.
  7. H.R. 8: Repealed the unsustainable CLASS program: H.R. 8 saved $6.5 billion by repealing the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program, an unsustainable entitlement program whose phony “savings” were used by Democrats to mask the true cost of ObamaCare.
  8. H.R. 2995: Repealed the cap on deductibles for health plans in the small group market. Repealing this provision will give employers more flexibility over the type of health care options they can offer their employees, and will expand the use of high-deductible plans paired with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

None of these are full repeals of Obamacare. But they all shrink the size and scope of the federal government while improving, marginally, our nation's health care system. If anything, Republicans should be more ambitious in pushing partial repeals.

While the House has approved delays of the employer and individual mandates, they have never voted on full repeal of either measure.

According to the CBO, a one-year delay in the individual mandate would cut Obamacare spending by $28 billion, which could easily pay for a one-year delay in the employer mandate, which would reduce taxes on hiring by $10 billion. That is $10 billion more employers could spend hiring more Americans right there.

These CBO figures are for just one-year delays. Full repeals would garner much higher spending cuts and free up far more money for businesses to hire new people.

House Republicans should at least pass full repeals of the individual and employer mandates out of committee so we could get a full CBO score on what the benefits would be.

There would also be some costs too, however. Delaying the individual and employer mandates for a year would increase the number of uninsured by 2.5 million and raise insurance premiums. But most of the people that would lose health care from such a repeal (2 million) would be those who did not want to buy it in the first place! And Republicans could further cut premiums by repealing the essential benefits packages that are driving up the cost of health care nation wide.

Obama would never sign full repeals of the individual and employer mandates. But by forcing votes on the issue, and getting CBO scores of the repeals, Republicans can show Americans that Obamacare can be rolled back in a way that lowers health care costs and increases employment.


Conn Carroll

Conn Carroll is editor of Townhall Magazine.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography