House OKs Diane Black's health measure bill

WASHINGTON — House Republicans took another stab Thursday at undoing part of the 2010 health care reform law, but this effort — like the 40 before it — isn't expected to get far.

On a largely party-line 235-191 vote, the House passed a bill sponsored by Tennessee Rep. Diane Black that would bar federal subsidies for people participating in newly created health insurance exchanges until the Obama administration sets up a system to verify those people are eligible.

Democrats called the Gallatin Republican's proposal unnecessary and obstructionist.

The vote marked the 41st time the GOP-controlled House has tried since 2011 to repeal or delay the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The Democratically controlled Senate is not expected to take up Black's bill, and the president has threatened to veto it.

The bill focuses on the health care exchanges created under the 2010 law, which are set to open Oct. 1. The exchanges are online marketplaces designed to help consumers find affordable coverage. They target individuals and families who aren't insured through the government or a private employer.

Under the law, some people will receive federal subsidies to help pay for insurance coverage, depending on their income. The Department of Health and Human Services had planned to roll out a verification system to make sure applicants qualify for the subsidies.

But in July, the administration said it would not have a verification system in place until 2015. Instead, consumers will be trusted to provide necessary information, including income levels.

Black and other critics say that could lead to widespread fraud. Her "No Subsidies Without Verification Act" would prevent subsidies from being disbursed until a verification system is in place.

"This bill would protect American taxpayers from the staggering amounts of fraud and abuse in Obamacare exchanges by simply requiring that Obamacare live up to its original guarantee in the original law — that only those who certify to be eligible for taxpayer subsidies receive them," Black said on the House floor prior to the vote.

Democrats counter that there is a verification system in place — the IRS. Any incorrect income information provided by subsidy applicants will be spotted — and addressed — when they file their taxes the following year.

Supporters of the health care law say the same kind of honor system allows people to self-report cash tips, and businesses to self-report purchases of goods that cost more than $600.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., called Black's bill "nothing more than another page out of the Republican playbook" to kill the health care law.

"Rather than a productive, bipartisan effort to ensure successful implementation, Republicans will instead waste more precious floor time to take their 41st vote that undermines and repeals the Affordable Care Act," he said before the vote. "Your bill will do nothing but prevent millions of hard-working American families from gaining affordable health care coverage."


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