Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Heritage Morning Bell...I'm Late

From Long Island to Philadelphia to Austin, Texas, Democrats returning from Washington to host Townhalls are getting an earful from constituents about their concerns over President Barack Obama’s health care plan. Despite the fact that all recent polls show that a majority of Americans do not support Obamacare, the left still has the audacity to claim that the concerned citizens showing up at these events are health insurance industry stooges. So Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told the Center for America Progress: “These health insurance companies and people like them are trying to load these town hall meetings for visual impact on television.”

But when actual journalists have reported on who is showing up at these events, they are telling a different story. Reporting on events in Pennsylvania and Texas, the New York Times describes the protests as “organized by loose-knit coalition of conservative voters and advocacy groups.”

This country deserves a respectful, honest debate about health care. And the hundreds of townhall’s Members of Congress will be hosting across the country this August are just the place for that conversation to happen. Here are just five questions Americans should be pressing their elected leaders on over the coming month:

Can you promise me that I will not lose my current plan and doctor?
President Obama says it is “not legitimate” to claim the “public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system.” But Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman have all admitted that the public option will inevitably lead to government-run health care. The independent and non-partisan Lewin Group estimates that about 83.4 million people would lose their private insurance if Obamacare became law.

Can you promise that you and your family will enroll in the public plan?
Members of Congress and their families currently receive health care through the popular, and completely public-option-free, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) which allows members of Congress to choose between 283 private health insurance plans. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) proposed an amendment that would require all members of Congress and their staffs to enroll in the newly-created public health insurance plan. His amendment passed by just one vote in the Senate Health Committee. In the House, Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) offered a similar amendment and all 21 Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee voted it down. If the public plan is so great, then Members of Congress should by willing to forfeit their private coverage and join the millions of Americans who would be moved into the public plan.

Can you promise that Obamacare will not lead to higher deficits in the long-term?
President Obama said that he would not support health care legislation that would add to the national deficit. But Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf has stated that the House health care legislation would “generate substantial increases in federal budget deficits during the decade beyond the current 10-year budget window.” To help Obama keep his promise, Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-OH) offered an amendment that would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit an annual report to the President and Congress, comparing the expected revenue and spending under the bill’s provisions for the upcoming 10-year period. In the event that projected spending under the bill outpaced revenue, the Secretary would have to reduce spending so that it would not exceed revenue. Democrats defeated Tiberi’s amendment.

Can you promise that government bureaucrats will not ration health care for patients on the public plan?
President Obama promised on July 22 that health care reform would keep the government out of health care decisions, but both the House and Senate bills call for an increased role of comparative effectiveness research (CER). More information on health care effectiveness is good as long as doctor’s and patients are the ones empowered to use that information. Conservatives in both the House and Senate offered amendments prohibiting the use of CER by government to mandate, deny, or ration care. These anti-rationing amendments were defeated in both the House and Senate.

Can you promise me that my tax dollars will not fund abortions?
The House bill, as currently drafted, allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to outline the minimum benefits that must be included in any health plan. There is no specific provision in the bill that would require insurance coverage of abortion. However, since the decisions over benefits are left to the Secretary of HHS, with recommendations from a newly created Health Care Benefits Advisory Committee, there is nothing to prevent the current or future Secretary from including abortion coverage in Americans’ health insurance. Conservatives in both the House and Senate offered amendments that would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. The tax payer funded abortion bans were defeated in both the House and Senate.

Commenting on the townhall phenomenon, University of Pennsylvania political scientist Kathleen Hall Jamieson tells Politico: “If this comes down to vocal individuals, the Obama campaign ought to be able to always outnumber their opponent. And if they’re not, then that’s a problem.” So far it appears that Obamacare has a townhall problem.

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