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House passes bill to restrict Obamacare subsidies

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. House passed a bill to prevent health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act until a system is devised to verify eligibility for subsidies.

The House voted 235-101 Thursday in favor of the No Subsidies Without Verification Act, introduced by Rep. Diana Black, R-Tenn., after the Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation in July allowing flexibility in state-run insurance exchanges in determining who may qualify for subsidies, The Hill reported.

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Republicans argue the regulation would allow ineligible people to receive subsidies -- tax credits that can be used to buy insurance -- at taxpayer expense.

"Because fraud and abuse have been rampant in just about every program that is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, including Medicare and Medicaid, a certified verification system being in place prior to the implementation to the Affordable Care Act is critical," Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said during debate Wednesday on the bill.

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The White House has said opponents are misinterpreting the regulation at issue, that the flexibility afforded to states applies to a very small number of people, and that eligibility determination will not be weakened. The bill is not likely to win Senate approval and the White House has said President Barack Obama would veto it if it reached his desk, The Hill said.

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On another ACA front, House Republican leaders indicated this week they will support raising the federal debt limit only if Democrats agree to a one-year delay in fully implementing the healthcare reform law.

Majority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., described the strategy Tuesday at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, The New York Times reported.

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"This law is not ready for prime time and will never be," Cantor said in a statement.

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