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Health Care / HEALTH CARE

House Votes to Defund Insurance Exchanges

photo of Meghan McCarthy
May 3, 2011

The House voted on Tuesday to strip the health care law of an estimated $1.9 billion in federal money to help states establish insurance exchanges, but the legislation is not expected to go anywhere in the Senate.

The chamber approved the bill on a party-line vote, 238-183, with five Democrats voting in support.

The legislation from Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., would stop Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from giving states unlimited funds until 2015 to establish insurance exchanges. The agency has already given $49 million to 48 states and the District of Columbia.

 

The White House threatened to veto the bill on Monday, and it will likely not get considered in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Although the legislation is more for show than anything else, the vote puts the House on record as opposing specific pieces of the law. That could help Republicans to use the votes as bargaining chips during later spending fights, or as a side-by-side amendment in the Senate.

The Congressional Budget Office said that the bill would reduce the deficit by $14 billion; however, most of the savings would be generated by delaying the exchanges--the states would need so long to set up the health-insurance exchanges that the federal government would not have to shell out very much to subsidize them. CBO also estimated that without federal dollars, the exchanges would not get off the ground until 2017. Under the law, they are supposed to begin operating in 2014.

The House is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on another bill targeting funds in the health care law, this time $100 million in funding to build school health clinics that Republicans say will not be fully staffed. The chamber will also vote on controversial abortion legislation that will make it more difficult for women to receive coverage for medically necessary abortions if they have health insurance through the insurance exchanges established under the health law.

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