An unintended consequence of the debt deal? Obamacare cuts could come

It’s the top headline on Drudge right now and a few folks are buzzing about it on Twitter, too. Yesterday, I wrote about the likely cuts to defense funding that will come if (when?) the Super Committee deadlocks. Now, it looks like progressives on the Committee might actually have equal impetus to ensure the Gang of 12 arrives at $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, after all. The signature accomplishment of President Barack Obama’s first term could be at risk. Politico reports:

Many of the pots of money in the law — one of the Democrats’ most prized pieces of legislation — could get trimmed by the debt deal’s sequestration, or triggered cuts. The funds for prevention programs and community health centers, grants to help states set up insurance exchanges and co-ops, and money to help states review insurance rates could be slashed across the board if the panel can’t find enough cuts this fall.

Funding for the temporary high-risk pools for pre-existing conditions could be sliced, too, as well as grants to improve maternal and child health. And as previously reported by POLITICO, the law’s cost-sharing subsidies — which are supposed to help low-income people pay their out-of-pocket expenses — could face the ax, too.

The prospect of reductions to the health law’s programs — which would undermine the law’s attempts to expand access and improve health quality — could provide an added incentive to Democrats to avoid the triggered cuts. The reductions will happen if the new committee can’t find at least $1.2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years.

Republican leadership is already touting this as added evidence that the debt deal was a win for Republicans, in general, and the Tea Party, in particular. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) said it for everyone when he said, “When I look at these, I think it gives a huge incentive to the Democrats to find cuts. What would be triggered if we can’t find other cuts would cut right into the Obama health care law.”

What’s most exciting to me about this development is that it reinserts Obamacare into the debate. Up to now, much of the talk of cuts has centered on discretionary spending, entitlement programs (which, somehow, are never thought to include Obamacare, the largest entitlement program of all) or defense funding. And, all along, Republicans should have been talking about cuts to the health care law because they’re on especially solid ground with that. Cuts to established entitlement programs that people have come to rely on are far riskier politically than cuts to a program that hasn’t yet been fully implemented — a program, furthermore, that represents the first entitlement program in the history of the country that folks opposed, as I’ve heard Mike Frank, Heritage Foundation vice president for Government Studies, say on more than one occasion. Hopefully, Republicans on the Super Committee will try to achieve these cuts as a part of the $1.2 trillion in the first place and not merely hold them over Democrats’ heads to ensure no new taxes — but, no matter what, it’s nice to know the Defense Department won’t be alone out in the cold if the Super Committee fails to do its job.