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Friday, October 30, 2009

Op-ed from Congressman Glenn `GT' Thompson


Escape Hatches?

By U.S. Representative Glenn `GT’ Thompson

Headline in The New York Times: “Public Option Push in Senate Comes With Escape Hatch.” I read that and I thought, “Why have the Democrats crafted their health care reform in this manner? Why would they need an `escape hatch’?”

The following is my interpretation of what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is attempting. Some 61 percent of Americans oppose replacing private health insurance with a government-run option. Yet, a group of Democrats in the House and Senate desperately want to see a public option in the health care package. So, the Democratic leadership once again is trying to have it both ways. If your state doesn’t like the public option, it can pass a law to opt out of the program. That way they can say, “The public option is in the bill, but hey, it isn’t mandatory.”

How many states are going to opt out of the public option benefits when their citizens still must pay for it with various taxes and cuts? What sense would that make? Your money would then be going to support people in other states, who would be receiving health insurance through the public option. If they really wanted to make this fair, the Democrats would have come up with an opt- in provision. It would say if you like what we are proposing in the way of a public option, you can pass a law to take part in it in your state.

Instead, this is the camel’s nose under the tent. No state will opt out and the public option will run its course until we eventually have exactly what House and Senate Democratic liberals want – a single payer, government run and controlled health system. Even though almost half of the country believes the Democrats’ bill will make health care worse for most Americans, they are moving forward. And two out of every three practicing physicians oppose the medical overhaul under consideration in Washington. Forty- five percent of Physicians have said they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement” if Congress passes the Obama plan. Keep in mind that 50 percent of physicians are more than 50 years old.

These are some of my concerns, but I am most worried for our seniors. This is an expensive program and the President doesn’t want it to be a bigger contributor to the deficit. Therefore, cuts must be made in order to pay for the new system. As a result, the Democrats propose taking $162 billion from the Medicare Advantage program. If you like your current plan, it had better not be Medicare Advantage because you can’t keep it – despite what promises may have been made.

Twenty-five percent of seniors in this country are enrolled in Medicare Advantage. A study in California showed those enrolled in Advantage plans spent 30 percent fewer days in the hospital and were 15 percent less likely to be readmitted to a hospital. I would say that accounts for a huge savings. But regardless of the facts, the Democrats don’t like the Medicare Advantage program.

What other cost cutting measures are in this bill for seniors? The Congressional Budget Office reports the Democrats’ health care plan will increase seniors’ Medicare prescription drug premiums by 20 percent over the next decade. In these tough economic times, older Americans, many on fixed incomes, should never be faced with a choice between prescriptions or putting food on the table.

Despite the finger pointing, Republicans are not against health reform. And this one is certainly in favor of a change. There are more than 40 Republican sponsored measures that would incrementally make changes to the system. One of the first changes I would support would be that no one would be denied access to insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Second would be addressing medical liability reform in a meaningful way. Third, if you lose or change your job, you and your family should continue to have access to affordable health coverage. Fourth, would be allowing the purchase of health care insurance across state lines. There are many more areas where the two parties may agree.

Let me be clear, the Democratic majority has not allowed a single Republican into their backroom deliberations on what will be in their health care package. It is hard to work with people who will not talk to you. I don’t believe that is the openness in government that candidate Barack Obama touted on the campaign trail. Nor do I believe the American people deserve a health care reform package being crafted behind closed doors. Rather, I hope for a meaningful debate that allows members from both parties to have input and get down to the people’s work.

13 comments :

Anonymous said...

"Forty- five percent of Physicians have said they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement"

Can you provide a source for this (and other) claims?

Anonymous said...

I want my public option. It is going to save money. The poles I have read show support, but, hey gotta stick with the party of no.

Anonymous said...

Hey Glenn, the reason that the repubs haven't been included is because they refused to participate! It's amazing that now that the president and the dems are doing something about the crazy insurance system, the repubs NOW have a plan!
You're not very convincing about being willing to work with the opposition either, Glenn. Every time I see you quoted in the paper, you're attacking Rendell and the dems. Enjoy your one term, buddy. Better line up a gravy job while you're in cause I think you'll be unemployed soon. Hopefully anyhow!

Anonymous said...

Wat to go, scaring the old folks into thinking the dems are going to take their benefits. I believe it's the republicans who want to cut way back on social services......all except those they like. You know, the tax cuts for the wealthy.
What a load of BS you're delivering Glenn! Maybe when you get voted out, you can get a job driving.

Veblen said...

GT, Loves to read from the GOP script lies and all.

The public option is to be self financing. It will not receive any taxpayer subsidies. Hence a taxpayers in a state which opts out will not be helping to subsidize those in other states which do not opt out.

Any aid the government provides to low income individuals and families will go direct to those individuals and families. These families will then buy insurance on the exchange. The exchange will have both the public plan and private plans in states which don't opt out. It will have only private plans in states which do opt out.

Is GT too dumb to know this or is he trying to mislead those who he thinks are too dumb to realize that they are being lied to?

Anonymous said...

Hey Glenn, flatlander here, but I a very vested interest in a small hut near Germania, so I'll speak up. I can afford that hut due to 23 years a certain blue insurance company based in harrisburg, I am sure you can narrow that down to two, won't tell ya which one cause you'll try to have me fired, I know, it's happened before with an esteemed law maker who I've dared to disagree with. Want to talk about waste? DO you really even have a clue? I see it every day, new vice presidents, senior directors, unnecessary advertising (adnausium). Tell us sir, exactly how much $$ have you received (collectively) from IBC, CBC, BCNEPA and Highmark? Please include that figure in your next fluff piece of republican BALKING points. Since there is no competition does PA really need four separate BC/BS plans? Wouldn't one CEO earning 3M a year be better than four CEO's earning 3M a year? Just think how many people that extra $9M would insure, just think how big your check would get Glenn! Yes, the party of NO who like the status QUO! The status QUO that keeps people down, beholden to jobs they don't like (me!) but won't walk away b/c of that mighty health insurance. And I sir, DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE, I have to pick my company, they offer no competition. So I continue to eat the increases (had to cut out my United Way donation for 2010 in my feeble attempt to balance out my funds - that's what you people refer too as trickle down economics). Glenn, you can argue and scare the old folks all you want, but my generation is in charge now and we're gonna rectify this situation, you guys had your chance but only came up with a vote getting rx program that contains a HUGE DONUT HOLE, there is always a catch with you guys, always a hook back to the insurance cos. or the drug cos., isn't there. Is that a coincidence Glenn?..........cont...

Anonymous said...

cont......WEBMASTER once again I ask, where is the counter point to these party of NO talking points? Why not ask Arlen or Bob to respond? As you know, PA is a blue state, we are open minded and care about others, not just ourselves. We got rid of ilk like R.Santorum and got us a kinder, gentler senator. Where is your fair and balanced reporting? Or is that the problem, taking queue from another faux news organization?

Dem's are far from doing a "good job" said...

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled an $894 billion health care takeover bill Thursday; the Congressional Budget Office puts the cost at $1.055 trillion. The bill, a combination of three separate committee bills, should be light reading for our nation's lawmakers, though -- it weighs in at a scant 1,990 pounds, er, pages.

The "reform" plan includes the dreaded "public option" that many thought might be dead and buried. The public option would create a government-run insurance plan to "compete" with private insurance. The obvious problem -- at least to those who understand the free market -- is that it would have several negative effects on health care and the economy. Many employers would drop their insurance coverage in favor of the small penalty paid to the federal government in exchange for putting employees on the government dole. Indeed, an estimated 120 million customers would leave private insurers. With fewer people buying private insurance, many insurance companies would increase rates, further restrict coverage, or go out of business altogether, thus creating a vicious death spiral.

Such a scenario would, of course, suit Pelosi and other Democrats just fine. They continue to condemn the "immoral" and "obscene" profits made by the insurance industry, though as it turns out, those profits are not so obscene after all, but are around 2 percent.

The public option is so unpopular that Pelosi is now trying to re-brand it, suggesting the "consumer option" or the "competitive option" as alternatives. "You'll hear everyone say, 'There's got to be a better name for this,'" Pelosi said. "When people think of the public option, public is being misrepresented, that this is being paid for with their public dollars."

Uh, Nancy, it will be. And by their great grandchildren's dollars.

The bill will "provide" insurance for up to 36 million people by broadly expanding Medicaid and by giving subsidies to moderate-income Americans so they can buy insurance from either private companies or the new government-run plan. "Can buy" in this case means "have to buy" because of a newly minted unconstitutional mandate to buy insurance. And, the subsidies would be paid for in part with a surtax on individuals earning more than $500,000 and couples earning more than $1 million.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is working on an "opt out" provision for states that don't wish to participate in the public option, though he's not gaining much support. As currently written, the opt-out would cost states even more money because of the additional funding measures.

It would be similar to federal education guidelines, which states can opt out of -- at the expense of federal funding -- or the federally mandated drinking age states can ignore -- if they don't want federal highway money. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) pointed out last week that the federal government used to regulate speed limits, and again, states could "opt out" at the loss of federal highway funding.

It seems that Don Corleone Reid's public option is an offer states can't refuse.

The BIG Lie said...

The BIG Lie
Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan is a rarity among Democrats -- one who believes the federal government shouldn't pay for abortions. When President Obama told a joint session of Congress in September that "under our plan no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions," Stupak wondered how that was possible when both the House and Senate bills allow federal funding of insurance plans that cover abortions.

In speaking with the president about this apparent contradiction, Stupak found it's only the (unwritten) health care reform plan in Obama's mind that doesn't fund abortions. Unfortunately, the bill the president would sign is one of those thousand-plus page behemoths circulating through both houses of Congress -- or a combination of both.

Stupak wanted to add a prohibition similar to the longstanding Hyde Amendment preventing funding of abortions to the House bill but was told by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "I will not have my amendment." Instead, placed in the House plan was a "compromise" where just one provider in each state's insurance exchange is required to cover abortions. Some compromise.

immigration said...

On immigration, a bloc of mostly moderate Democrats is pushing party leaders to impose a verification system similar to the one includled in the Senate bill, but Hispanic members, in particular, are fighting to block that change.


Now that they have a final bill, House Democrats are now calling on Obama to put his thumb on the scale.


"I guess the time has come for the President of the United States to get in here a little bit,” Weiner said after emerging from a closed-door caucus meeting Thursday. “I understand the idea of letting the legislature work its will, but unless we have the president in there putting his finger on the scale and his hands on the shoulders of some of my colleagues we are not gonna be successful with our red-zone offense."


Yvette Clarke, one of the strongest voices for the robust public option behind closed doors, says progressives will vote for the bill.


"We're going to have to," she said. "We've done what we can do."

Veblen said...

the dreaded "public option" Really?

According to the commenter at 7:52 this evening,


Many employers would drop their insurance coverage in favor of the small penalty paid to the federal government in exchange for putting employees on the government dole...an estimated 120 million customers would leave private insurers. With fewer people buying private insurance, many insurance companies would increase rates, further restrict coverage, or go out of business altogether, thus creating a vicious death spiral.

But certainly this individual must know that even if it came to pass that employers did drop coverage, and I'm not conceding that point, those who lost coverage would choose from either the public option or from a private plan in the exchange. After call he concedes this very point when he writes

The bill will "provide" insurance for up to 36 million people by broadly expanding Medicaid and by giving subsidies to moderate-income Americans so they can buy insurance from either private companies or the new government-run plan.

Then in what world would,"120 million customers would leave private insurers?" People whose employers dropped coverage would just as likely end up in some other private plan.


This is just plain vanilla GOP fear mongering. In fact, this commenter is so transparently logic impaired that it makes me wonder if GT had a slow Saturday night and decided do some anonymous posting on this blog.

Here's the truth about the House bill.

The CBO has found that "The health care reform bill that was recently introduced by the U.S. House of Representatives 'would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $104 billion over the 2010–2019 period' if enacted,"

Anonymous said...

WOW..ALL THE WELL TO DO PEOPLE CAN AFFORD INSURANCE..IF THE DOCTORS WANT TO RETIRE THEN SO BE IT..AFTER ALL THEY,THE DRUG COMPANIES AND A LITTLE MIX FROM SOUTH OF THE BORDER SEEM TO HAVE THEIR COSTS IN PLACE..IN OTHER WORDS THEY GET RICHER AND RICHER...I DON'T BELIEVE IN MY LIMITED MIND THAT DOCS WANT YOU TO GET WELL..THEY CAN KEEP BILLING AND BILLING INSURANCE COMPANIES FOR YOUR LITTLE ILLNESS..WHY CAN'T DOCS ACCEPT WHAT YOUR INSURANCE PAYS? AFTER ALL I AM TOLD EACH YEAR HOW MUCH MONEY I CAN MAKE FROM MY EMPLOYER BUT ALSO MY PREMIUMS GO UP EACH YEAR..THIS INCLUDES DENTISTS TOO..DAMM RIP OFF WE HAVE HERE..MAYBE SOCIALIZED MEDICINE ISN'T THE ANSWER BUT AT LEAST ONE CAN GO AND GET HELP..BUT IF YOUR ILLEGAL HERE THEY GET IT FOR FREE AND LOTS OF OTHER BENEFITS..WHATS WRONG WITH THE WHOLE PICTURE IN THIS GREAT COUNTRY?

Whole picture? said...

What's wrong with the whole picture?

I think our great country has been so busy trying to look big and strong and taking care of too many other countries is what got us into this mess, all political parties can share in this mess!

We are treated poorly in other countries with NO rights and NO benifits and we should do the same thing in this country. It is high time we take care of our own and the heck with the illegals!

No cure for Aids or Cancer will ever be found because the gravey train will stop, sounds bad I know but stop and think of all the ones on the food chain it would effect if cures were found.

Unified health care run by our Federal government is not needed!
Regulating the insurance companies is the answer. Let them all compete for customers and stop this what company can offer coverage based on what part of the state you live in, problem solved!

They would all be bustin hump to keep making their record profits then wouldn't they?!

The coverage premium based on everyone in a group is a joke. Charge premiums based on each persons health in that group, anther problem is solved.

Does not take a 1900 or so page law, rule or regulation to start taking care of this mess.