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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health Care Reform: Which Version Do WE have to Take?

By John L. Valentine
Utah State Senator, District 14

To quote the August 6, 2009 Provo Daily Herald, “The more you look at the Democrats’ proposed health insurance scheme, the scarier it gets.”

I have had, literally, a hundred calls from constituents, members of the legislature and clients trying to get a handle on the “Health Care Reform Bill” that is working its way through Congress. I usually ask, “Which reform bill are you addressing? Are you speaking of the 1,018-page version of HR3200 entitled ‘America’s Affordable Health Choices Act?’” This bill passed on July 31st from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is primarily sponsored by John Dingle. (Incidentally, Congressman Matheson voted No in the committee on a close committee vote of 32 to 28.)

“Or are you referring to the version passed by the Health, Education and Labor Committee on July 17th by a 26 to 22 vote?”

“Perhaps you are referring to the House version passed by the House Ways and Means Committee, which also passed on a close vote with three Democrats and all Republicans voting no on July 17th.”

“Wait, you must be speaking about the unnumbered Senate bill entitled ‘Affordable Health Choices Act.’ It’s only 615 pages and is being considered by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. It did not receive a vote before the summer recess.” Rumor has it that the Senate Finance Committee also has a bill, but as of this writing, it has not yet been made public.

HR3200 has received the most publicity as being the President’s “Health Care Reform Bill.” The versions passed by the House Health, Education and Labor Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee were similar but “addressed differing areas of the bill due to the differing jurisdictions of the committees.” The three House bills, differ significantly since they were passed by three different committees, with their own mark-ups. I have read through the 1,018 pages of HR 3200, but have not yet had a chance to read the Senate unnumbered bill with its 615 pages. (I wonder how many of our Federal Congressman have done so?)

So, what are all these bills attempting to do? If you would like to read some HHS propaganda, go to HealthReform.gov, click on the Utah link and find out how bad we are in Utah at governing our own affairs. Since we are doing so badly, the federal government has had to step in and mandate all employers to have either private insurance or government insurance. HR3200 sets up a private public advisory committee known as the Health Choices Committee, which determines coverage benefits and premiums plans (ie: what health care is covered and the price for such coverage.)

It is made up of the US Surgeon General and 18 other members appointed by the President. HR3200 mandates audits of all employers who are self-insured. The government panel will mandate the treatments and benefits you can obtain, even if you have private insurance, unless you can pay for it out of pocket. Unlike the present system, there is no appeal process. In other words, the Health Choices Committee will decide the health benefits for us; we will have no choices, none whatsoever. It will be decided by a federal bureaucracy.

Oh, by the way, all non-US citizens, whether illegal or not, will be provided free health care services under the bill. Don’t believe it? Look at page 50 of HR3200 and see for yourself. Oh, and did they forgot to tell you, every person will be issued a National ID Health Card (see page 58 of the bill). Those eligible for Medicaid (the “poor”) will automatically be enrolled in the new government health care plan. No choices, no state experimentation or efficiencies. This expanded coverage is partially financed by reductions in reimbursement rates to Medicare (the “elderly”) doctors, hospitals and clinics.

No longer would a person be able to sue for price fixing. Since there would no longer be judicial review, there is no remedy for the prices set by the federal government. Oh, and by the way, employers must pay health care bills for part-time employees and their families financed by an 8% tax on payroll for employers with $400,000.00 or more of payroll per month. If you are a smaller employer with a payroll less than $400,000.00 per month, you still have a 2 to 6% tax imposed on your payroll. (Incidentally, the bill requires posting signs “in the language of commonly encountered groups or groups presented in the service area of a health care organization” advising them to sign up for the government health plan if your employer does not have you covered under its plan (page 413).)

Finally, starting on page 424 of HR3200, Section 1233 entitled “Advance Care Planning Consultation” requires that any individual who has not had a consultation within the last five years that qualifies, shall have their doctor explain to them regarding life-sustaining treatment or similar orders which shall include the reasons why the development of such an order is beneficial to the individual and the individual’s family. As the Daily Herald observed:
“Your reasons for living might be unacceptable to the government.”
Remember, the Congressional Budget Office Director, Douglas Elmendorf, concluded that the bills described above not only do not save money but would increase government spending on health care without reigning in health care costs. His statement: “The creation of a new subsidy for health insurance . . . would by itself raise federal spending on health care . . . . To offset [those costs], there would have to be a substantial increase in taxes or reduction [of programs] on the spending side of the ledger.” (Emphasis added)

As a reminder, the Congressional Budget Office analyzes the cost of legislation. Congress is not obligated to follow their estimates. And Federal Congressmen, Federal Senators and Federal Government employees do not have to be covered by this mess. They always exempt their taxpayer paid health-plans from these requirements.

Am I upset? Yes. Am I mad? Yes. Can we do anything about it? Yes. Our Congressman and Senators need to hear from us NOW, during the summer break, by email, by “snail-mail,” by phone and by attendance at town meetings. Don’t believe the propaganda aired by groups such as MoveOn.org Political Action Committee. Read the Bill for yourself. It is on-line now.

Link: http://docs.house.gov/edlabor/AAHCA-BillText-071409.pdf

And please, pass it on to your friends from other states.

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Anonymous Adano said...

Looks like at least one of your claims was lifted from an email forward, word for word:

all non-US citizens, whether illegal or not, will be provided free health care services under the bill

But if you check with PolitiFact, they rate that with the lowest score on their scale: "Pants on fire." Details here.

I'm pretty sure I oppose these reforms, too. But let's make sure to use accurate arguments in opposition. If your arguments can be argued away as factually false, then you won't ever persuade supporters of the bill to oppose it.

There are plenty of true arguments against the bill--including many that you make. But let's stick to the true ones, not the hyperbolic falsehoods from chain emails.

8/14/2009 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Laura Polacheck said...

I am shocked that Senator Valentine would post this blog. The "cites" to pages in the bill completely distort and sometimes fabricate the actual content and meaning of the language. The alarmist tone, meant to frighten instead of inform, is also appalling.

Once of the most outrageous claims is the pull quote from the Daily Herald claiming that, "Your reasons for living might be unacceptable to the government."

NOTHING could be farther from the truth. The Utah legislature recently passed a bill--unanimously--regarding advanced directives, so that a patient's wishes for treatment could be honored at the end of their life. This avoids the situation where a patient cannot control his or her own treatment options because they are not made known to the providers.

The bill would allow doctors to be reimbursed for providing counseling on advanced directives, living wills, and the like--right now, as an unreimbursed discussion under Medicare, it simply does not happen very often. The bill adds a Medicare benefit to encourage more interaction between doctors and their patients. It is completely voluntary. Certainly, the question of whether this expansion of Medicare is affordable is a legitimate question, but the assertion that the government will decide if "your reasons for living are acceptable" is a purposeful and cruel distortion.

8/20/2009 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


we can't sue the insurance companies for price fixing as current law reads.

what's with this "no longer" bull? talk about propaganda!

8/24/2009 12:07 AM  
Blogger Jason The said...

Ric, we've tried our best to answer the Buttars/Valentine questions here:


Honestly, as we did our research, it became increasingly difficult to take the Senator(s) seriously. As I have said elsewhere, the Senate Site has a choice at this point. Either the goal is to give platform to (surprisingly!) poorly informed Senators and willing misinformation for public consumption, or the goal is discussion. If the goal is discussion, we should expect our response to Chris Buttars/Valentine grandstanding to be mentioned as prominently on this site as Buttars own chain email incited questions have.


8/24/2009 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Truly unfortunate that Valentine would degrade an otherwise informative and respectable site with this garbage. Now it's just another uneducated mouthpiece for misdirection and fear-mongering. Truly sad. Information is hard enough to come by in Utah without having to sort through the same trash I can easily find in the anonymous comment section of the Salt Lake Tribune. You owe your constituents more than to let yourself remain so poorly informed, Mr. Valentine.

8/24/2009 5:18 PM  
Blogger Jason The said...

Continuing, as promised, to answer the Senators questions. Day two, questions 6 through 10.


Honestly, either the Senator has never read this bill, or is committing an act of willing misinformation in claiming the answers to his questions weren't clear as day. Amazing how far astray a chain email can get you, huh? Perhaps there's a lesson for us all in that. Until tomorrow...


8/25/2009 11:13 AM  
Blogger Jason The said...

Day three, answers to questions 11 through 15:


In fairness, today's five questions from the Senator are a much more reasonable set of questions that open up an ideological debate, and stay clear of willing misinformation (for the most part).


Kudos to Buttars for stepping away from the chain email propaganda at least for these five. That said, it's still difficult to take him seriously. It's not been difficult for us to find these answers, and none of us involved are elected officials with a responsibility to be educated on any issue we might speak publicly off. We've yet to stumble across anything in our reading/parsing of the bill that implies both Buttars and Valentine shouldn't be ashamed of what they've posted here at the Senate Site.

Back tomorrow with the final set of questions...

8/26/2009 11:52 AM  
Blogger Jason The said...

This post has been removed by the author.

8/27/2009 12:32 PM  
Blogger Jason The said...

Day four, and our answers to questions 16-22. I believe my mother called what the Senator is doing here "malarkey" when I was a kid:


As we've researched and learned ourselves, it's become increasingly difficult to believe this wasn't a willing attempt to mislead on the part of the Senators Buttars and Valentine. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Hopefully, our answers linked throughout these unfortunate posts will help someone understand better than what these two elected officials have just tried to pass off as information and legitimate discussion over policy.


Back tomorrow with a conclusion of what we learned, not only about this bill, but the Senator(s) actions here at The Senate Site.

8/27/2009 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5 biggest lies about HR3200 (Newsweek). Looks like Valentine has retold them all here.

8/30/2009 1:11 PM  
Anonymous <a href="www.futuresafeinsurance.com">Individual Health Insurance</a> said...

This health bill is totally unconstitutional by forcing it onto people when they cannot afford Individual Health Insurance.

4/23/2010 6:25 AM  

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