Should the GOP help fund Obamacare?
They're not going to but maybe they should.
The president asked for $1.5 billion more for HHS to implement Obamacare, and even if Congress won't act, HHS will likely be able to get the money from other sources anyway.
The landmark health law may have survived the Supreme Court, countless repeal efforts and a presidential election - but none of that required Republicans to shower money on Obamacare. And with at least 33 states refusing to build the critical health insurance exchanges, the federal government is unexpectedly on the hook to set them up - and short of money to do so.
The White House requested $1.5 billion more for the health law implementation in its budget Wednesday, but health officials know they're not likely to get it.
As past funding requests have been spurned, Health and Human Services officials contend they've been able to cobble together the funds and won't miss the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment in exchanges. Any big delay, or major hitches would be a huge blow to Obamacare and reopen the law to political warfare before the 2014 mid-term elections.
"The Supreme Court has ruled, there has been an election, we intend to implement the law," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters Wednesday. She acknowledged that without an infusion of new money, she's probably going to have to keep juggling and scrambling to keep it all on track.
HHS to date hadn't been very specific about how it's been moving ahead - even when lawmakers asked. But Sebelius told reporters that the department hadn't yet spent the full $1 billion that was initially allocated for implementation - a figure that was decided on long before the states balked at exchange-building. Sebelius said the department had been "judicious" in spending it, and officials said approximately $235 million is left in that fund.
In addition, like other Cabinet secretaries, Sebelius has some discretion over certain department accounts, and she has also dipped into a public health and prevention fund that's part of the health law.
The money for the 17 states and Washington DC doing their own exchanges isn't such a challenge: The health law basically gave them a blank check. HHS expects to send out another $4 billion in exchange grants between the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years.
If Sebelius is going to get the money anyway, why give the Democrats an opening to claim Republican "obstructionism" when October 1 rolls around and everything blows up?
Give HHS the cash - it's only rope to hang themselves with. Even with the funds, HHS will probably not have all the exchanges up and running by October 1. And if they are, the glitches, the confusion, the madness of a 21 page application for subsidies -- all that and more will do a far better job of making the case to repeal the law than anything Congressional Republicans can do to gum up the works by refusing to fund implementation.
If the Democrats blame GOP stubborness for Obamacare SNAFUs, it will be a hard sell but it is likely to work with some voters anyway. We should take the issue entirely off the table by giving HHS what they want.