Arch-conservative Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is indicating his support for a major provision in ‘Obamacare’ which closes a prescription drug coverage gap for elderly Americans on Medicare.
“I’m a renowned conservative who supported Part D,” King told his home state paper The Messenger in a little-noticed interview published late last week. But he said of the so-called doughnut hole, “It will haunt us until it’s filled.”
The Affordable Care Act gradually fills the doughnut hole, a glitch in the 2003 Part D legislation that spikes seniors’ out of pocket costs for prescription drugs — currently after the first $2,930 and until $4,700 per year (the figures change over time).
King stopped short of pointedly endorsing that part of Obamacare — he maintains that the entire health care reform law must be repealed — but clearly championed the principle and took no particular issue with the way the ACA approaches the task, although he is concerned about the cost.
As The Messenger reported: “He added that he wants to fill it, but doesn’t know where the needed money will come from. … He said fixing the Medicare Part D coverage gap is not a reason to keep Obamacare in place. He said he believes that law is too expensive and takes away the individual’s freedom to make decisions about their health care.”
A spokesperson for King did not immediately return a request to elaborate on his comments, which were highlighted over the weekend in the Huffington Post.
King is in a tough reelection race against Democrat Christie Vilsack, the wife of former Iowa governor and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
While flirtation with supporting a piece of Obamacare is notable in part because of King’s fierce, unabashed opposition to the law, it’s one of several popular provisions that Republican leaders and even tea party darlings in tough reelection battles have signaled sympathy for this year — others include covering preexisting conditions and letting young Americans up to 26 remain on a parent’s insurance plan.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.