President Obama continued Monday to use the power available to him to maintain his end run around Congress on the job-creation and economic fronts generally.
With his large jobs bill essentially dead in Congress, the Obama Administration on Monday announced that it would as much as $1 billion available through the Affordable Care Act to fund new health-care jobs in the states.
The Health and Human Services Department, which announced the move, said the grants would be provided to health-care providers with creative new approaches to providing services to patients in federally funded health insurance programs — Medicare, Medicaid and the State Childrens' Health Insurance Program.
The move was part of the president's "We Can't Wait" strategy, meant to show that he's willing to act urgently and unilaterally to attack the jobs crisis, even in a micro way.
It's meant to allow him to claim that he's doing his part while congressional Republicans hamstring his legislative proposal for creating jobs on a larger scale.
Even as the Obama administration unveiled its new initiative, congressional Republicans tried to win the message war by trumpeting their own jobs initiatives. It was Obama, they said, who refused to do the right thing and signing on to their jobs agenda.
From House Speaker John Boehner's blog:
Republicans continue to focus on job creation this week, with a vote on a bipartisan jobs bill helping veterans find work and repealing the IRS withholding tax, and a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment. In addition, House Republicans will unveil a jobs initiative linking increased American energy production to critical infrastructure projects.
While the Senate did pass a piece of bipartisan legislation last week, a proposal meant to help veterans find employment, that represented only a sliver of Obama's American Jobs Act which has mostly been rejected by the Republican controlled House and the Senate's GOP minority.
In what appeared a coincidence, the Obama administration's announcement that it would use the new health care law to fund health-care jobs came on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would take up the question of the constitutionality of the law's individual mandate this term, with a decision to come in June, four months before Election Day.
An excerpt from an HHS news release:
Funded by the Affordable Care Act, the Health Care Innovation Challenge will award grants in March to applicants who will implement the most compelling new ideas to deliver better health, improved care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, particularly those with the highest health care needs. The Challenge will support projects that can begin within six months. Additionally, projects that focus on rapid workforce development will be given priority when grants are awarded.
"When I visit communities across the country, I continually see innovative solutions at the very ground level – a large health system working with community partners to decrease the risk of diabetes with nutrition programs or a church group that sends volunteers to help home-bound seniors so they can live at home," said Donald M. Berwick, M.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
"By putting more programs like this in place and more "boots on the ground," these types of programs can truly transform our health care system."
Again, Monday's move is just the latest in a series of steps taken by the Obama administration to use the president's executive power to help boost job creation and aid the economy.
For instance, last week Obama signed an executive order meant to make it easier for returning veterans to find jobs.