GOP fast tracks bill to fortify ObamaCare's high-risk pools

House Republicans are moving quickly on a new bill to strengthen ObamaCare's temporary insurance plan for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Helping Sick Americans Now Act (H.R. 1549) was introduced late Monday and is scheduled for a mark-up Wednesday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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The measure seeks to shore up the Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan (PCIP), a struggling program designed to offer insurance to vulnerable patients while the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.

The Obama administration announced earlier this year that it would suspend enrollment in the PCIP, citing cost concerns.

GOP lawmakers have since mounted a push to transfer money from the law's public and preventive health fund — disparaged as a "slush" fund by Republicans — to reopen the PCIP's enrollment.

The new measure follows a letter from House GOP leaders to President Obama asking him to make that move without congressional action.


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Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), who leads the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health, slammed Obama late Monday for ignoring the letter.

"Sick Americans without insurance face lots of hurdles to find good coverage," said Pitts, lead sponsor on the new bill.

"Since the White House hasn’t answered our appeal, we’ve introduced legislation that would ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can once again have access to this program," Pitts said in a statement.

The bill would use funds from health reform's Public Health and Prevention Fund to keep the PCIP open through the end of the year.

The law's ban on pre-existing condition discrimination takes effect Jan. 1, eliminating the need for PCIP.

The policy will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people based on their health status.