Next week, the U.S. House will consider H.R. 1549, the "Helping Sick Americans Now Act." This bill would defund an Obamacare political slush fund controlled by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and instead use the money to give the sickest Americans health insurance. ATR is supportive of this legislation, and would encourage all Congressmen to vote for it.
H.R. 1549 would take four years of funding from Obamacare's "Prevention and Public Health Fund" and re-deploy the money to a high risk pool. This slush fund has turned into a political grab bag of patronage and bribery in its short life. So far, taxpayer dollars have been used for pet neutering campaigns, bike/park signs, gardening, fast food construction moratorium lobbying, polling to test messaging for higher soda taxes, as well as working with the Centers for Disease Control to lobby for higher "sin" taxes across the board.
Even more importantly, this slush fund is the source of funding for advertising Obamacare exchanges. $354 million will be used to advertise to American families that they must comply with an individual mandate they didn't ask for and don't want. H.R. 1549 would put a stop to that.
What does the bill use the slush fund money for instead? First, it returns over $1 billion to the Treasury to achieve deficit reduction. Second, it uses the balance of the fund to support a high risk pool, a mechanism where people too sick to get insurance on the open market can become qualified to do so. Not only is this a much better use of the money (after all, a healthcare law should be spending money on healthcare, not lobbyists and ad men), it has a long history of GOP support. High risk pool funding has been in every conservative health policy reform plan for a generation. One might quibble about the details of this particular high risk pool fund, but not with the overall policy goal's durable pedigree.
Next week, Members of the U.S. House will have a simple choice: do you think money is better spent on lobbyists and PR firms, or is it better spent on sick people?