Health Reform Watch: House Votes to Defund Reform; Senate Hurdle Awaits

BY Lea Winerman  February 18, 2011 at 6:48 PM EDT

House Votes to Defund Health Reform

The House passed three amendments Friday that would block the government from spending money to implement the health reform law for the rest of this fiscal year. The amendments, which were attached to a federal spending bill, passed in a largely party-line vote in the Republican-controlled House. The defunding effort will face strong opposition, however, in the Democratic Senate and White House.

“If we are not successful this time we are going to try again and again and again until we have either a Senate that’s willing to pass it or a president that understands that we cannot do this to the American people,” said Rep. Danny Rehberg, R-Mont., one of the amendments’ sponsors, according to CNN.

Alaska Governor Says No to Reform

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said Thursday that his state will not implement the health reform law, citing a decision by Florida federal Judge Roger Vinson that ruled that a key part of the law is unconstitutional. The issue will almost certainly eventually be decided by the Supreme Court, but Parnell said that in the meantime the Alaska would not implement the law. The most immediate effect is that the state will not apply for a $1 million planning grant to begin developing health insurance exchanges.

On Thursday, the Obama administration asked Vinson to clarify his ruling. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told the Wall Street Journal the government filed the motion “to confirm that the court did not intend to disrupt the many programs currently in effect.”

‘Early Innovators’ Get Funding to Develop Insurance Exchanges

Other states, meanwhile, moved ahead with reform. Seven states got $241 million in funding this week to develop the information technology infrastructure that they’ll need to run the state-based health insurance marketplaces that will go into effect in 2014, under the health reform law.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the states will serve as “laboratories of innovation,” and that the methods they develop can later be used by other states. Find the list of states and grants here.