Sunday, August 02, 2009

Public Catching On To Healthcare Gov-Gap

The public is apparently catching on to the disconnect between the healthcare benefits the Members of Congress have been helping themselves to, and giving federal workers on one hand, and the manner in which they are currently pursuing healthcare coverage with the legislation that is working its way through Congress.

Back on the 22nd of July we suggested active consideration of a modest amendment to the healthcare reform bill, based on a question that has been asked of several Congressmen, That evening, the President was also asked the question during his press conference that evening by Steven Thomma of McClatchy. Thomma pressed on follow-up for an answer on his question of whether the President and Congress should have to abide by the "public option" being offered.
Q: And what about yourself and Congress? Would you abide by the same benefits package?
He never got a complete answer. A fellow-reader of Powerline, Rick Thiel, has sent along a link to a Sunday story in the Los Angeles Times on the topic. According to the report, by Mark Z. Barabak and Faye Fiore, outlining the benefits the Congress has given themselves and federal workers over the years, an amendment to include congress under the public option was narrowly defeated in the Energy and Commerce Committee during mark-up. But Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), has managed to get a similar amendment included in the Senate version of the bill.

The L.A. Times story is entitled:

Congress' own healthcare benefits: Membership has its privileges
Lawmakers can choose among several plans and get special treatment at federal medical facilities. In 2008, taxpayers spent about $15 billion to insure 8.5 million federal workers and their dependents.
From the story:
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) sponsored an amendment requiring members of Congress to forgo their current health coverage and enroll in any government plan they pass to compete with private insurers.

"Let's demonstrate leadership and confidence in the system," Coburn said before his amendment squeaked through the Senate Health Committee. A similar measure was defeated in the House.

A spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi demurred when asked if she would sign up for a government-run plan. The San Francisco Democrat joined President Obama in pushing unsuccessfully for passage of a healthcare bill before lawmakers headed home for their summer recess.
Below is the link to the current House bill, which is now linked up on Powerline at this post, (ht John).

Here is the current House bill, HR 3200, as it was released by Henry Waxman's committee, Energy & Commerce, just as they were leaving town for vacation. It was released on a very close vote -- 31 - 28.
To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans
and reduce the growth in health care spending, and
for other purposes.
At the beginning of the main provisions -- the "affordability" division of the bill -- is a Statement of Purpose which specifies the following purposes. We put a few of the key phrases in bold:

(1) IN GENERAL.—-The purpose of this division is to provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending.

(2) BUILDING ON CURRENT SYSTEM.-— This division achieves this purpose by building on what works in today’s health care system, while repairing the aspects that are broken.

(3) INSURANCE REFORMS.—-This division—

(A) enacts strong insurance market reforms;

(B) creates a new Health Insurance Exchange, with a public health insurance option alongside private plans;

(C) includes sliding scale affordability credits; and

(D) initiates shared responsibility among workers, employers, and the government; so that all Americans have coverage of essential health benefits.

(4) HEALTH DELIVERY REFORM.—-This division institutes health delivery system reforms both to increase quality and to reduce growth in health spending so that health care becomes more affordable for businesses, families, and government.
Let's take a look at this in light of the suggested amendment to include all Members of Congress and all federal officers and employees in the three branches under the public option:

Congress says that overall stated purpose is not just to provide "quality" health care, but equally to reduce the growth in health care spending. The amendment we're talking about would definitely reduce governmental spending, certainly in a symbolic and fair manner, by requiring those in the government to reduce their personal spending of our tax dollars on themselves!

And, because it allows government officials and employees to supplement their "basic" coverage," as they may wish, it still provides for "individualized" quality care coverage -- they would select, and pay for what additional coverage they want for themselves and their families.

After all, that's the same exact fairness they expect all the rest of us to abide by!

As far as the statement about "building on the current system," there are critics who say that the mandated "public option" would actually undermine the current system.

The offered amendment would be a solid basis by which the Congress would be required to express their faith in the continuing viability of the current system. Because they may cover themselves only with the public option, they would be implicitly saying that any additional coverage they might want to purchase would continue to be there and affordable.

Thus, they would be inherently expressing their faith in the continuing viability of the current healthcare insurance system, i.e., to be viable notwithstanding the the mandate of the "public option."

If the proponents of the "public option" are wrong, Congress would not be in favor of the public option because they would know that many or all of the remaining coverage options would collapse, or would be too expensive to realistically afford -- and their ox would get gored, right along with the rest of us.

Recall that in the "Insurance Reforms" section, one specified purpose is that it, "initiates shared responsibility among workers, employers, and the government . . ."

The amendment we're talking about is 100% consistent with the notion of "shared responsibility" by the "government." As is, the current bill is a crap-shoot for the rest of us. Members would essentially be unconcerned about their own coverage; they would continue to have such good coverage because we would be paying for it, no matter what it cost!

And finally, the reform provisions specify that one purpose is ensure that, "health care becomes more affordable for businesses, families, and government."

Unquestionably this amendment would make government "more affordable" because we wouldn't have to pay for their current "Cadillac" coverage.

So, this amendment -- to include Congress and all federal officers and employees in the public option --would be entirely consistent with each and every one of the stated purposes of the bill!

p.s., One of those who does not really believe in the continuing economic viability of the existing system is none other than our old "friend," Barney Frank (D-Mass).

Check out this video of Barney, on the fly talking to a "friendly" of his -- from the organized proponents of a "singlepayer" bill -- HR - 676, or, fully government controlled healthcare.

As you can see, Barney "helpfully" tells the guy that a single payer bill (which he says personally supports, and wishes he could get passed) simply cannot get the votes, but that this "public option" bill is essentially a Trojan Horse that will lead to "single payer! In other words, Frank believes that the "public option" bill is a helpful ruse that will get by us and lead to . . . "nationalized healthcare!"

So, that's what Barney wants, and he thinks the current bill will trick us into getting there. Meanwhile, he and all the Members of Congress continue to help themselves to considerable health care benefits at considerable cost to us all.

Gee, why should that not surprise anyone?

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