An Update on Healthcare
OBAMACARE UPDATE – EARLY 2009
By Lee Bechtel, NHF National Lobbyist
April 10, 2009
To be fair, what is being referred to as Obamacare could be labeled Waxman-Kennedy national health care, or Waxman-Pelosi and Kennedy-Reid socialized health care. Regardless of the label, government-run health care is progressing even though Congress is in its two-week April recess.
When Congress returns, there will be final votes on the Obama Fiscal Year 2010 budget. Before leaving town, the House and Senate approved their respective versions of the FY 2010 budget resolution, both of which include deficit-neutral reserve funds for health-care system reform. The largest dispute between the House and Senate is whether to include “budget reconciliation instructions” in a final compromise resolution to fund the $400-billion “down payment” for a government-run health-care system – the Budget Conference Committee bill as it is known on Capitol Hill. Staffs are working out the details now and the House and Senate Conference Committee members will be few in number, as was the case with the Economic Stimulus spending law.
Some in the health-freedom community may have heard of this issue, or may hear of it soon. Inclusion or exclusion of “reconciliation instructions” is important. This might sound mind-numbing, but it is how our political system works. Inclusion or exclusion of reconciliation instructions is important not with regard to what Congress decides on how taxpayers will pay for a socialized health-care system, but because inclusion changes the legislative process dynamics for the votes needed to pass any national health-insurance authorizing legislation.
Budget reconciliation instructions set the amount of money authorized to be spent by the Congressional committees having jurisdiction over a program or policy matter included in a Congressional Budget resolution. Instructions can also direct the authorizing committees to decide on how to pay for new-program or policy-change authorized spending. Other program spending can be reduced or taxes can be raised and earmarked to offset the new cost of a program or policy change. Most importantly, the inclusion of budget reconciliation instructions also prevents a Senator or Representative from raising a “Point of Order,” which is a legislative defeat or delaying action against a bill, on the grounds that it exceeds what has been included in a Budget Resolution. In this case, this would apply especially to a health-care system reform/national health insurance bill, when it is separately voted on by the full House and Senate later this year, or until a 2011 Budget Resolution is passed by Congress next year.
The “how do we pay for it” component will be yet another example of liberal Democratic leadership exercising their OPM principle – spending/taxing other people’s taxpayer money. It will be another example of Congressional “smoke and mirrors.” In short, how will the government get $400-billion-plus more dollars from taxpayers over the next 5 years? If a final Conference bill is passed with reconciliation language, then House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, and Senate HELP Committee Chairman Kennedy, and a few other Democratic leadership members will be able to pass any legislation and use the OPM principle and “smoke and mirrors” to support any configurations of a health-care system reform bill that will need the support of fewer Members than would be the case if reconciliation instructions were not included in a Conference committee compromise resolution.
House passage of any socialized health-care bill is virtually assured. With reconciliation instructions, only a majority is needed, which is 218 votes. The Democrats have 254 Representatives and can afford to lose 36 of their own, not counting any Republicans that might vote in favor of a Obama-Waxman socialized health plan. The Senate is a different story. Under parliamentary procedures with reconciliation language, only 51 votes are needed to end a filibuster instead of the usual 60 votes. With 58 members, Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy can afford to lose 7 of their own, not counting any Republican Senator support they might pick up along the way to offset such losses. The Democratic leadership – with White House approval – is using the legislative tactic of needing only a simple majority rather than a super majority to pass a national health-insurance law.
You and I Are Not Represented Here
Any health-reform legislation to change what needs fixing in our health-care system must preserve health freedom of choice and the quality of American medical care that American citizens value. The Obama administration has also held the last of its five national “town hall” meetings on health-care reform, to fulfill its transparency and accountability campaign pledges to include public input. It is important to note that participants in these “public meetings” were by invitation only. So, only representatives of their points of view were allowed to attend. Is this true representative democracy at work? You will hear this political spin claim being made as events unfold.
More Control, Less Choice
More, not less, government control is another principle of the liberal Democratic philosophy. The Obama, Baucus, Waxman, Kennedy, and other proposed or outlined national health-insurance reform plans envision a health-care system operated by the federal government, with the claims that they would give Americans a choice between public or private health plans. This is the political spin. While there are assurances that plans would operate on a level playing field, the government inevitably will use its regulatory, pricing, and taxing authority to favor its plan. Liberal Democratic leadership in Congress will give the government the power to dictate prices so it can artificially under-price private insurance (with taxpayer dollars) and drive them out of a one-sided “marketplace.” Keep in mind that the Medicare program already commands 50% of the insurance market.
It gets worse. If the final authorizing legislation requires everyone to purchase health insurance, the politicians must define what qualifies as insurance. All signals indicate this would be a very expensive benefits package, designed as one-size-fits-all in theory but delivered as one-size-fits-none in practice. Government mandates create a conflict between escalating costs, limited resources, and the false guarantee of rich insurance coverage for all – leading to price and supply controls. This is the & “tax-or-play” option as outlined in the democratic health-care plan outlines. Many people will need subsidies to receive coverage that otherwise would be unaffordable, but taxpayers will resist filling an abyss. As a result, political leaders now and in the future will try to cover rising costs through general revenue tax increases, more deficit spending, fees and fines, and taxes imposed upon employers and individuals who choose not to play.
Finally, there is the role of the recently enacted and appointed 15 member Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research. In the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) press release announcing the Council members, there are assurances that the Council will not be recommending clinical guidelines for payment, coverage, or medical treatments. Start counting how many times you hear this line from Washington politicians. Just because the Council may not recommend does not mean that Congress, as currently controlled, will not command via subsequent legislation.
This body, despite assurances to the contrary, establishes federal government intrusions into medical decision-making. Of the 15 newly appointed members, 9 are federal-agency bureaucrat MDs, 3 are federal-agency bureaucrat Ph.Ds, 1 is a bureaucrat Ed.D, and 2 are federal-agency bureaucrat JDs. None have any background with alternative or naturopathic medical practice. It is interesting to note that one member, an attorney, served on the Obama health-care task force. This person is a political appointee at HHS. A list of the members and their professional biographies may be viewed here-www.hhs.gov/recovery/programs/os/cerbios.html .
The prospects for national health insurance, characterized as a “down payment” on health-care-system reform by President Obama, are moving quickly. Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy have announced that they expect to have bills voted out of their committees before the August Congressional recess, with action expected in September or thereafter. Despite the numbers and control of liberal leadership, defeat is still a political possibility. The Progressive Democratic Caucus and Blue Dog Democratic Caucus could fragment the liberal Pelosi-Waxman control over the Party in the House.
Grassroots Activism, the Only Possible Opposition
Prospects may not look good, but grassroots activism against a Canadian-style US health-care system could change minds. The NHF opposes government-run health care, and hopes other health-freedom organizations will do the same by contacting their Senators and Representatives when these bills materialize later this year.
As the oldest and best-respected health-freedom group on Capitol Hill, the NHF continues to be the credible source of objective assessment of, and proactive actions on, Congressional legislation and FDA matters that have material impact upon our freedom-of-health choices and access to dietary supplements and nutritional foods.
National Health Federation: Established in 1955, the National Health Federation is a consumer-education, health-freedom organization working to protect individuals’ rights to choose to consume healthy food, take supplements and use alternative therapies without unnecessary government restrictions. The NHF is the only such organization with recognized observer-delegate status at Codex meetings. www.thenhf.com
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