Vermont's three members of Congress are home for the August recess. This will provide an excellent opportunity for citizens to query them on the subject of President Obama's health care bill.
There are actually three large bills under intense development. The plan is to bring together some collection of provisions that will attract votes to pass the respective chambers. Then in the House-Senate conference, the leadership and the Obama administration will reshape the package into what they want.
With the assistance of Vermont's nonpartisan Ethan Allen Institute, we present 12 questions that concerned citizens should consider asking Congressman Peter Welch:
1. The bills impose an individual mandate on me to buy health insurance approved by the federal government. What will happen to me if I don't go along? Fines? Wage garnishment? Jail? Will these penalties also apply to millions of illegal aliens, or will they apply only to American citizens and legal aliens?
2. The bills impose a mandate on most businesses to pay for employee health insurance containing "essential benefits" approved by the federal government. If the businesses don't do so, they'll be required to pay a fine. How many small businesses in Vermont will shrink their operations, or go under, rather than pay this new penalty?
3. President Obama said that if I am happy with my coverage, I can keep it "no matter what". Now I find out that I can keep it until my employer changes or drops it, or until I change employers, or until I try to buy individual insurance. Will you stand behind the President's initial promise, or will you support Congress's action to break it?
4. The bills contain a provision allowing health insurance plans bargained by labor unions to continue unchanged-while nonunion workers are threatened with loss of coverage. Is this preference for unionized workers a result of Labor's support of Obama and fellow Democrats in the last election? Do you support the exemption?
5. President Obama has said he won't support a health care reform bill that will add to our exploding deficit. The Congressional Budget Office says this bill will bend the federal health care expenditure curve up-not down. Will you vote against any bill that fails President Obama's requirement that it will not add to our deficit?
6. Governors of both parties have strongly objected that the bill's mandated expansion of Medicaid will put an intolerable fiscal burden on struggling state treasuries and state taxpayers. Will you vote against any bill containing this very costly unfunded mandate?
7. The bill includes provisions for federally-designed "comparative effectiveness research". This is intended to require health care providers to deny health care to elderly citizens, people with disabilities, and others the health of whom certain appointed experts think is not worth improving. Will you oppose any bill that contains such a provision?
8. The bill requires that "qualified" health insurance plans include all "essential benefits" determined by federal bureaucrats. Democratic majorities have already voted down amendments to exclude elective abortions from the list of "essential benefits". That means that for the first time taxpayers will be required to subsidize elective abortions. Will you vote for a bill requiring taxpayer financing of elective abortions?
9. Exploding medical malpractice claims, fueled by the plaintiff's bar, are driving doctor and hospital malpractice insurance premiums ever upward. Why are there no provisions in any of the bills to ameliorate this problem, which is driving doctors out of practice? Is it because the plaintiff's bar contributes millions of dollars to the leading sponsors of this legislation?
10. The bill contains a "public option", a government-run insurance company "to keep the private insurers honest." Will this government-run company pay taxes, pay for its own revenue collection and marketing costs, and pay market interest rates on its debt? Or will it enjoy government backing that will enable it to undersell its private competitors, swallow up their customers, and become a new "Medicare for Everybody"?
11. Speaking of Medicare, the system is $36 trillion out of actuarial balance and will run out of hospitalization benefit funds by 2017. How will the government-run "public option" insurance company avoid turning into another Medicare basket case? And how will our senior citizens on Medicare continue to get medical services?
12. Finally, as a supporter of this "public option" plan, are you willing to transfer your family and your staff's families out of the existing Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan, with its choices of many private insurers, into the new government plan? If not-why won't it be good enough for you?