Fiscal cliff budget talks may include Obamacare if Republicans have their way. Specifically, congressional leader Speaker of the House John Boehner insists that Obamacare should be a bargaining chip. In an opinion piece he wrote for The Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this week, Boehner called the president’s signature Affordable Care Act a massive, expensive, and unworkable government program. Boehner further declared that the Affordable Care Act “has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.”
An Obama administration official told The Huffington Post that “the president would oppose involving the Affordable Care Act in the negotiations taking place to stave off the so-called ‘fiscal cliff.'” A top Senate Democratic aide is quoted as calling the idea of using parts of Obamacare for bargaining “absolutely” a non-starter. “And they [the Republicans] know that, so it’s counterproductive to even offer it,” the aide added.
Republicans will probably try, anyway. In the Affordable Care Act the most obvious target for spending cuts are the subsidies intended to help middle class Americans purchase health insurance. In the final version of Obamacare, those with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level, which is $44,680, could qualify for at least some aid. The earlier original version of the Affordable Care Act passed by the Senate Finance Committee was less generous, intending to only help subsidize the healthcare of the poor. This part of the law does not take full effect until the beginning of 2014 so it could be part of long-term budget debates running through the end of 2013.
Other potential spending cuts include various boards and oversight panels that Obamacare currently requires. The most expensive is the $10 billion for a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). The CMMI is intended to test methods of saving money in big government health-care entitlement programs…by spending billions.
Despite these excesses, most political experts believe the Affordable Car Act will remain mostly untouched:
“It [Obamacare] will be implemented,” said Bob Laszewski, a well respected Washington health-care policy consultant. “It will also have to be changed but not until after it is implemented and the required changes become obvious and unavoidable. We can all debate what those things will be … but it doesn’t matter what we think will happen – time will tell.”
The fiscal cliff budget talks will be ongoing during the next couple weeks. It’s too early to say whether Obamacare will be tweaked along the way. The Republicans have 12 working days in the Congressional calendar until they hit the December 14 deadline, although it’s possible Congress may continue to meet if no deal is struck by that time. In the meantime, Democratic states who supported Obama better hope they are able to work out a deal since the fiscal cliff will affect them the most due to the Bush tax cuts expiring.