House Republicans will be taking another stab at ObamaCare repeal when Congress returns next week from the July Fourth recess — and House conservatives have added another prong to the GOP response to last week’s Supreme Court ruling.
Included in the controversial decision was more flexibility for states to opt out of Medicaid expansion — without being assessed the penalty of losing potentially all of their federal funding for Medicaid as detailed in the Affordable Care Act.
A group of lawmakers on the right have sent a letter to all 50 governors asking them to opt out of ObamaCare state exchanges.
“As members of the U.S. Congress, we are dedicated to the full repeal of this government takeover of healthcare and we ask you to join us to oppose its implementation. Most importantly, we encourage you to oppose any creation of a state health care exchange mandated under the President’s discredited health care law,” says the letter, which was circulated by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
Twelve senators and 61 members of the House signed on to the letter, as well.
Jordan, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee caucus, told PJM this afternoon that the Supreme Court ruling was “surprising, disappointing,” but has given lawmakers a new platform for the market-based healthcare solutions they’ve been pushing all along.
“Ultimately, the real decision is going to get made in November by the citizens of America,” Jordan said. “It’s just the great system we have. That’s appropriate. That’s who we are as a country, who we are as a system.”
The RSC had prepped for last week’s ruling with the release two days beforehand of a 27-page list of more than 200 pieces of healthcare-related legislation that its members have introduced over the past 18 months, promoting solutions including tort reform, the ability to purchase across state lines, and health savings accounts.
“I did not anticipate the Supreme Court saying that the government could tell you to purchase a product and if you didn’t — you had to buy it — there was a penalty,” Jordan said. “I think even the administration was expecting a different outcome.”
Democrats were expecting the tussle over the new flexibility in Medicaid expansion, though, and launched a similar offensive to encourage governors to opt-in to ObamaCare.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) sent a letter to Republican Gov. John Kasich urging him to implement the Medicaid expansion on the grounds that too many state residents would be left without a coverage option otherwise.
“Not only is this a matter of providing needed health services for the people of Ohio, it is also a matter of economic sustainability. Uncompensated care is a drain on our hospitals, health providers, and health care system as a whole,” Fudge said. “By expanding Medicaid, we will greatly reduce the costly problem of uninsured patients depending on emergency rooms instead of a primary care physician.”
“Moreover, the cost to the state will be minimal — for the first three years, the federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost of the expansion,” Fudge said.
Governors who have opted out already include Republicans Rick Scott (Fla.), Bobby Jindal (La.), Scott Walker (Wis.) and Nikki Haley (S.C.).
Jordan, who was visiting a hospital in his district today and hearing concerns there about ObamaCare implementation, called the Democratic push the “classic example of how the two sides in D.C. operate.”
“It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “They believe that healthcare should be run by folks in Washington, D.C. We just happen to think differently.”
“That’s why it’s probably appropriate now that the people have their say,” Jordan said, adding “everyone understands that this issue is central to the campaign.”
And the conservatives’ message to governors is that their cooperation is central to stopping full implementation of ObamaCare.
“Now that we know the courts will not save us from this harmful and unsustainable law, we urge all governors to join our fight full repeal by stopping its implementation,” said DeMint. “Americans have loudly rejected this law because it raises costs, lowers quality of care, and hikes taxes. The President’s health care law will not reform anything, but will hurt state budgets, destroy jobs, and reduce patient choices. States should reject these complex and costly exchanges.”
“If governors want to raise the cost of hiring people in their states, they should create an Obamacare exchange. If they want more jobs in their state, they should not. It’s that simple,” said Jordan.
By refusing to create an exchange, the letter stresses, governors will help Republicans in Congress battle a recently finalized IRS regulation that allows the federal government to provide premium assistance to citizens in states that have not created exchanges.
“State-run exchanges are subject to all of the same coverage mandates and rules as the federally-run exchange,” the letter states. “Clearing the hurdles of crafting an exchange that complies with the 600 plus pages of federal exchange regulations will only result in wasted state resources and higher premiums for your constituents.”
Jordan told PJM that while the RSC is looking ahead to the next steps as it continues its fight against ObamaCare, it’s hard for him to look back at Chief Justice John Roberts’ ruling and judge why the Bush appointee ruled as he did.
“I assume [people's] motivation is in a good direction,” he said. “I happen to think this was wrong. I don’t delve into what motivated it.”
But, Jordan added, “just because individuals in a black robe say something is right doesn’t mean that it is.”