House sets more health-care repeal votes

The battles over the fiscal 2011 and 2012 budgets are the center of attention this week on the Hill, but the House is also poised to consider a measure that would repeal another portion of the national health-care law.

The bill, HR 1217, was sponsored by House Health subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and will be voted on by the House this Wednesday.

The measure would repeal the health-care law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides $15 billion in mandatory funds over the next decade to state- and community-based preventive care services.

Dr. Jim Spears examines Sarah Ittner, a New York-based actor who does not have health coverage, at the Actors Fund's Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic on March 23, 2011 in New York City.

Dr. Jim Spears examines Sarah Ittner, a New York-based actor who does not have health coverage, at the Actors Fund's Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic on March 23, 2011 in New York City.

Democrats have defended the fund as key to promoting wellness in local communities, supporting preventive research and helping to reduce tobacco use, obesity, heart disease, cancer and a host of other health issues.

Republicans have criticized the account as a “slush fund” that gives Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wide latitude in administering federal money without congressional oversight. Pitts also argued in his testimony on the measure in last week’s committee hearing that the public health and preventive care funding should be discretionary (subject to yearly congressional oversight) rather than mandatory (locked-in spending levels).

The measure is one of five health care-related bills that the Energy and Commerce Committee approved last week. The others, which target state-based insurance exchanges, school-based health centers and health-related grants, have yet to be scheduled for votes.

Last week, 56 health organizations penned a letter to President Obama urging him to oppose the House Republican efforts to do away with the Prevention and Public Health Fund, arguing that the fund “is among the most significant provisions in (the health-care law) that help achieve a goal you set during the 2008 campaign.”

The measure would probably not progress far in the Democratic-controlled Senate. And in contrast to a measure passed this month to repeal the health-care law’s unpopular 1099 tax-reporting provision, the preventive health fund repeal measure would eliminate one of the key provisions of the law and one that has been vocally defended by Democrats.

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