Washington should try being honest and sensible about health care legislation
Will Barclay of Pulaski represents the 124th district in the New York State Assembly to which he was elected on the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties' lines.
By WILL BARCLAY
Just four days after Bill Owens defeated Doug Hoffman to become our new congressman, the House of Representatives passed the health care bill championed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi by a five-vote margin.
That bill would sharply increase taxes and sharply cut Medicare.
Speaker Pelosi and President Obama each publicly credited Bill Owens's support as making a critical difference in enabling them to ramrod the Pelosi plan through the House.
The bill contained 2,014 pages and has a price tag of at least one trillion dollars. The Senate rushed through a 2,074-page bill promoted by Majority Leader Harry Reid that has an $871 billion price tag. Few Members of Congress even pretended they'd read the bills.
Corruptly plundering our national treasury to buy off a senator here, a congressman there and powerful lobbies everywhere, Congress impetuously tried to jam down our throats ill-conceived schemes the American people strongly oppose. Their limp excuse for not taking time to think it through more carefully is that America has a health care "crisis." Consider some facts:
Because Massachusetts Republicans ran a good Senate candidate named Scott Brown, who was not afraid to debate health care — don't you wish our two leading contenders for Congress last fall had debated this issue in depth instead of ducking debates? — the people sent a strong message that they want Washington to try a different approach.
Why not try being honest and sensible?
Start by having the guts and brains to enact a strong tort reform bill to end the epidemic of medical malpractice lawsuits abuse. Doing this would save at least a half-trillion dollars over the next decade.
A Pacific Research Institute report estimates that more than $200 billion is being wasted each year because doctors have to resort to defensive medicine measures to shield themselves against costly lawsuits which are overwhelmingly frivolous.
To protect themselves against predatory trial lawyers, five out of six doctors, according to a Massachusetts Medical Society study, order tests, procedures and referrals they would otherwise think unnecessary. The study estimated this increases costs by about 25 percent with no added benefit for the patient.
Yet among the more than 4,000 pages of text in the House and Senate health care bills there is not even a single mention of medical malpractice reform. The House bill actually punishes any state that dares to "limit attorneys' fees or impose caps on damages." Whose interest is the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress looking out for — yours or the trial lawyers' lobby? Take a wild guess.
As this independent-minded conservative Republican contemplates running for Congress I shall be outlining more details about measures that I see as better, more honest, more sensible approaches, such as ending the current folly of forbidding you to shop freely across state lines for the best health insurance deal. Thwarting competition increases costs. Don't they get it?
I'd love to know why our congressman voted for Nancy Pelosi's recklessly irresponsible bill and why he has not stood up for medical malpractice reform. Bet you would, too.
In fairness to Bill Owens, I hope the Watertown Daily Times will invite him to write a column explaining why he supported such a bill and why he disagrees with the views that I have expressed in this column.
The proposed health care reform legislation and why I do not support it
Paul A. Maroun is a Franklin County legislator from Tupper Lake.
By PAUL MAROUN
We all try to do our best in making our American way of life the best it can be. However, in accomplishing this, we should do so cautiously as not to hurt other groups of citizens in our great nation. The fastest way is not always the best way.
I cannot support the proposed health care reform legislation for the following reasons:
We need to come up with health insurance plans that allow people with pre-existing conditions to acquire health insurance. Folks who are temporarily out of work, due to layoffs or other issues, should be assisted in their time of need. I would label these measures "gap" coverage. Medicaid covers individuals and families who are less fortunate than we are. We are already paying for their medical coverage with federal, state and county funds.
We must rein in the radical and junk lawsuits that hurt doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, drug research and, ultimately you and I, through increases in our health insurance cost. Tort reform is necessary to maintain doctors in all segments of our society, by reducing their medical malpractice insurance. Tort reform in this area would also reduce the possibility of unnecessary tests and procedures which doctors order to protect themselves from possible lawsuits of this kind.
Government should not be running a simulated insurance company; we have private insurance companies throughout the United States who can manage health insurance and have been doing so for many years. We should be allowing citizens to buy health insurance from companies all across our United States, commonly called competition.
Any health insurance plan will cost the government money: The question is how much and are the dollars being spent in the most advantageous way possible? Our country has always come to the aid of others when a dire need existed; we are a generous nation. We must also take care of our own, but not by rushing into a national health care plan for expediency or to satisfy a political agenda.
Only by examining the issues, costs, benefits, direct and indirect results will a sound plan come forth. All of our states must be treated equally; some states should not be given extra dollar incentives at other taxpayers' expense in order to secure a positive vote on a bad piece of national legislation.
The American people want some type of health care bill; they are watching, listening and waiting for our federal representatives to put a bill together that can be explained to them in common-sense language. They want to ask questions of their federal representatives and get answers, not political rhetoric. The regular American like you and I are not dumb, we deserve better than what has been given to us so far. We strive for a better nation; certainly health care reform, if executed properly, will help us advance forward.
The path to reforming health care
Matt Doheny is a portfolio manager with Fintech Advisory Inc., 215 Washington St., Watertown. He resides in Watertown.
By MATT DOHENY
Our national health care system is off the rails. Health care costs are skyrocketing, creating a terrible burden on working families and increasing the federal deficit by billions of dollars each year.
During the last year, the Obama administration and the Democratic majorities in Congress have clearly demonstrated how not to reform our nation's health care system.
If you do not believe the public opinion polls, one only has to look at the recent Scott Brown victory in the perennial liberal state of Massachusetts to understand that the American people are rejecting "Obama Care" completely.
Unfortunately, our own newly minted Congressman, Bill Owens, could not wait to jump on the Obama Care bandwagon. One of his first votes in Congress endorsed this potentially disastrous legislation which vast majorities of Americans and folks right in our region reject wholeheartedly.
Obama Care has been rejected because it does little to fix the problems and places new burdens on working families.
While advocates claim cost savings under this plan, most people believe that would not be the case. Instead, most expect costs and premiums to rise. This is what happens when one party refuses to compromise and seeks to impose its own self-serving priorities and beliefs on Americans everywhere without discussion or compromise.
People in our community and around the country watched in horror as Obama and his Congressional allies cut one deal after another to pass their legislation.
One example is the deal the administration made with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) when payments of $100 million in Medicaid costs were exempted from his home state of Nebraska.
Another was the deal the president cut just two weeks ago exempting union membership from paying penalties on so-called "Cadillac" health care insurance policies.
And still another was the administration's deal with big pharmaceutical companies, trading their support for minimal impact on their industry.
What we have seen over the last six months has been Washington deal-making at its worst, and that's why the people of Massachusetts, the people of New York's 23rd Congressional District and Americans everywhere say no to Obama Care.
With the deserved rejection of the administration's health care reform plan, now is the time to pick up the pieces and develop real reform that will ensure quality care at affordable prices for Americans everywhere.
The first thing Congress needs to do is pass meaningful tort and legal reforms that cap pain and suffering awards and subject those who file frivolous claims with real financial penalties. Under the constant threat of lawsuits, health care providers are forced to conduct a myriad of unnecessary tests while high malpractice insurance costs are passed on to consumers.
The cost of health insurance should be tax deductible. More folks would buy health insurance if they could do so with tax-free dollars. And, folks should be able to create tax-free health care savings accounts allowing them to pay routine costs themselves while buying health insurance policies with higher thresholds.
In addition, Congress should induce competition by allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines. And, like big corporations and unions, small businesses should also be able to band together to create insurance pools.
Finally, Congress needs to establish universal access programs to guarantee access to affordable health care for those with pre-existing conditions.
These changes alone will result in large savings for both employers and families paying premiums. Although there will be some lost revenue to the federal treasury as a result of the health insurance tax deduction, it can be counted on that federal and state governments, along with health care providers, will achieve real savings because more people are exercising their free choice for buying health insurance.
Hopefully, the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress have learned the same lesson President Clinton and his congressional allies learned a decade and a half ago. Americans do not want changes in their health care that are going to increase costs, create a new bureaucracy and ultimately ration health care.
Hopefully, they have also learned that the American people want common-sense solutions with leaders of both parties working together to get health care costs under control, and allow those who are not insured to find affordable access to the system.
Does Obamacare cover broken promises?
Doug Hoffman ran for the open seat in New York's 23rd Congressional District this past November on the Conservative Party ticket.
By DOUG HOFFMAN
The battle for health-care legislation has huge consequences for our nation. While we hope it leads to lower health care costs and greater accessibility, it looks as though it will infect our nation with poorer care and sickly budget deficits instead. The stakes could not be greater, which is why it is so important that the American public be part of the process and their voices heard in Washington.
Yet President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats are ensuring we are not.
Sadly, this flies in the face of President Obama's promises on the campaign trail to have the health care discussion held out in the open and to air them on C-SPAN. He said he would do this so people can see "who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." It was a statement that even I could support.
The problem is it was merely a campaign promise and, while the American public expects campaign promises to be kept, Washington politicians rarely intend to honor them. Making promises they don't intend to keep is a disease that no health care legislation can cure.
When Nancy Pelosi was asked about President Obama's promise, her response was typical Washington. She snickered and said, "There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail." The symptom of this callous disregard of one's word is cynicism. It is no wonder that Americans have such a low opinion of both Congress and the president.
Broken promises seem to be symptomatic of this administration and its blind pursuit of a health care bill at all costs, irrespective of collateral damage. Just look at our new congressman, Bill Owens. Bill Owens is already on record for breaking four campaign promises in his first 24 hours of being sworn in to office. This was all in an effort to support Obamacare. Only a week before the election he promised not to raise taxes or cut Medicaid. Yet his first vote as congressman was to raise taxes by $700 billion and cut Medicaid by $400 billion.
Meanwhile, President Obama's broken promises of transparency are now replaced by secret, closed-door negotiating. We are left to wonder what they are hiding. We have already seen the shameful budget-busting promises that were made to secure passage of the Senate's version of the bill. Economically crippling taxes are being levied on businesses and taxpayers. Medicaid, already causing some states to teeter on the verge of bankruptcy, is expanding coverage while federal funding is being cut.
Should we be surprised that support among the public has dropped precipitously? According to the latest CNN Poll, more than six out of 10 voters say they oppose the Senate health-care bill. Although it's no surprise that Republicans don't like the bill, what is telling is that two thirds of Independents oppose it too. With public confidence that abysmal, is it any wonder that Pelosi and friends would prefer to conduct business out of the public's watchful eyes?
The present culture in Washington can be blamed for these low public opinion numbers. Broken promises do nothing but foster cynicism and erode the trust we place in our elected officials. If we can no longer believe the promises they make in public, can we trust them behind closed doors? The answer is "no." We should fear their reluctance to engage the public, a process that could lead to better legislation and foster trust among representatives and those they are supposed to represent.
Instead we are left to fear secret deals that are being made behind closed doors.