Like most Republican candidates in this fall's election, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is adamant about calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."
But a report published Wednesday said Ryan didn't have a problem nearly two years ago asking for federal ACA money to establish a neighborhood health clinic in Racine.
In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services in December 2010, Ryan asked officials for due diligence in reviewing a grant application from the Kenosha Community Health Center to establish similar medical services in Racine, according to a story from Lee Fang at TheNation.com.
Ryan recommended approval to “serve both the preventative and comprehensive primary healthcare needs of thousands of new patients of all ages who are currently without health care.”
Both Kenosha and Racine are communities in Ryan's 1st Congressional District.
In his letter obtained by The Nation and The Investigative Fund through an open records request, Ryan recognizes the need for a neighborhood medical clinic in Racine.
"Please note that target area includes census tracts ranking amongst the poorest and most-medically underserved in the State of Wisconsin," the letter said. "I am hopeful that the new proposed clinic will address the unmet needs of Racine's low-income and uninsured residents by offering access to medical, dental and mental health care."
Romney/Ryan campaign call report 'misinformation'
However, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the Romney/Ryan campaign, pointed out in an email to Patch that the Health Centers Program as initiated by President George W. Bush in 2006 was a continuation of the original programs begun and kept alive since the war on poverty began in the 1960s.
"This grant program was created by President Bush, not Obamacare. Some misinformation and gotcha reporting from a liberal blog," he wrote.
Yet, according to information Buck provided, Bush's program expired in 2008, with final funding provided in Fiscal Year 2009. The Health Centers Program was then folded into the ACA in 2010. That means a repeal of the law, unless a contingency plan is put in place, would de-fund clinics like the one for which Ryan was recommending support.
When asked about that scenario, he responded: "Clearly funding for health clinics existed before Obamacare."
Ryan is clear on repeal of Obamacare
Ryan’s 2010 request for federal funding is a sharp contrast from the many statements he has made repealing the ACA. at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Ryan made his position clear.
“The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over,” he said. “That will come as news to the millions of Americans who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.”
As Fang points out in his story, community health clinics all over the country have been funded with money from Obamacare and would fold without that support. Some $9.5 billion in funding for existing health centers and $1.9 billion to build new ones like the one proposed in Racine is part of the law.
“The Wisconsin congressman’s promise to repeal Obamacare would undermine the law’s five-year plan to rapidly grow the health clinic system in America by withdrawing the necessary funds,” he wrote. “The so-called Ryan Budget plan would also decimate other federal support for health clinics, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”
Zerban takes aim at Ryan
While most of the spotlight is now on Ryan as a vice presidential candidate, he is also running a race to keep his seat in the 1st District back home. Democrat Rob Zerban, who is challenging Ryan, issued a statement Wednesday slamming Ryan for his stance.
"In his own words, Paul Ryan acknowledges that there are people of this district in desperate need of quality, preventative health care and treatment. Yet he continues to promote policies that would deny life-saving care — placing partisan politics over the needs of Wisconsin's middle class families. That's wrong,” Zerban said.
“From his radical budget that ends traditional Medicare, to his support for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and Big Oil, Paul Ryan has failed to provide the middle class with opportunity, health care, and a fair tax system," Zerban added.
Mary K. Wakefield, an administrator with HHS, responded to Ryan's letter in January 2012, and assured Ryan the Kenosha Community Health application would get a full and fair review.
"I appreciate your support of the Health Center Program and your commitment to underserved populations in Wisconsin," she wrote.
Patch does have a message into Ryan's legislative office about the potential for alternative funding for the Health Centers Program if the ACA is repealed.
We will update this story when we get more information.