The Public Health and Prevention Fund survived its first post-reform test in the Senate, as an effort to repeal it in favor of reducing reporting of business expenses using IRS Form 1099 failed a cloture vote.
The final score was 52-46 against the Johanns amendment, which would have also weakened the individual mandate called for in the health reform bill. The underlying bill is meant to aid small businesses.
The first funds under the PHPF went out in June. Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska (right) proposed eliminating the $17 billion fund in favor of also eliminating new reporting requirements on 1099 expenses that are part of the health reform law.
Johanns was Secretary of Agriculture during the Bush Administration and, before that, governor of Nebraska. He opposed health reform and wants to repeal it.
The requirement is that 1099s now be filled out for any purchase over $600, as a way to improve tax compliance. Johanns called that burdensome. Many small business groups, including the one representing small insurance agents, supported the amendment. The underlying act is
Cloture was invoked because two Republicans, George LeMieux and George Voinovich, neither of them running for re-election, crossed party lines. Groups supporting the medical industry supported cloture.
The idea behind the fund is to help communities create their own programs aimed at preventing things like diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions that represent 75% of America's health care bill. Both public and private non-profit agencies are eligible to get the money.
A council created under a June executive order is administering the fund, which advocates insist is far less than what is needed, and which in the short term may only offset state and local cuts to the programs.
The Johanns battle, pitting advocates of community health programs against small businesses whose employees are often beneficiaries of such programs, is the first of many efforts that can be expected to gut the health reform law, dubbed the Affordable Care Act.
The battle is embarrassing to both sides. For Republicans, they opposed prevention in favor of tax avoidance. For Democrats, they opposed small business.
But the real story here is how easy it will be for a Republican Congress to make health reform moot.