WARRENSBURG - The health care bill that Congress passed Saturday would hurt small businesses and doesn't include appropriate incentives for cost control and for prompting citizens to lead healthy lifestyles, U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy (D-Glens Falls) said Monday morning.
Traveling through Warrensburg and Thurman to meet with his constituents, Murphy answered questions on why he voted "No" on the Affordable Healthcare for America Act that the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed Saturday in a historic 220-215 vote.
Murphy was among the few 39 Democrats who voted against the bill. While some political observers wondered how the freshman Congressman could vote counter to national Democratic leadership after President Obama lobbied so hard for the bill, others noted that his vote might have been condoned by Democratic leadership, after they had secured enough votes to pass the bill - to give Murphy leeway to bond with his constituency, which is heavily Republican.
But Monday, Murphy said his No vote was merely a matter of protecting the viability of small businesses, avoiding the spectre of runaway health care costs, assuring that incentives were in place to boost health across the nation, and scrapping proposed taxes that would target local industries.
"In this legislation, we didn't do nearly enough to control costs - we allowed a system in which big insurance companies have the ability to set a lot of their own prices, and we weren't doing enough to fix some of the broken incentives," he said.
Murphy said he had proposed provisions that gave citizens a premium discount if they kept their blood pressure and cholesterol down - but these specifics were cut out of the bill's final version.
"We've got to design incentives so people are prompted to take care of their health and reduce some of the overall costs - we've got to get everyone in the nation involved in working on these health care issues," he said. "Health care costs are too big, and they'd be getting bigger in the reform act, without the incentives."
He also said he staunchly opposed the bill's provisions that would impose taxes on the area's two largest industries: medical device manufacturers and paper mills.
The provision calls for medical device firms to pay a new tax of 2.5 percent of their sales revenues, and for paper companies to be excluded from a $1.01-per-gallon biofuel tax credit, which would be substantial for the local operations.
"If this bill comes back from the Senate with the same tax provisions, we're going to do everything we can do to mitigate the taxes proposed for our local mills and medical device manufacturers," Murphy said.
That's not all he objected to. He said the bill should focus more on quality of health care, rather than quantity. Doctors now are reimbursed according to the number of patients they see, he said, rather than the outcome of the examinations.
"They became doctors to get people well, not to see how many people they can run through in 10-minute appointments," he said. "For the doctors to pay their bills, they have to jam through a whole lot of visits in a day - this frustrates the doctors and patients, and leads the system in the wrong direction."
The other problem, he said, is the proposed 8 percent tax on businesses that have a payroll of $500,000 or more - which would burden tens of thousands of small businesses across the nation that are the main source of jobs for the nation's workforce, he said.
Murphy said he was frustrated that the payroll cutoff for the 8 percent tax was far too low in the House bill, and that a proposed tax credit to offset this staggering new tax would expire in only two years.
"So many of our small businesses can't really afford to provide health care," he said. "In this bill, we'd see the health care costs explode, and we'd be putting our small businesses and government on the hook to pay for them."
Murphy said he does support health care reform, if it's designed right.
"There's widespread agreement about the problem, but a lot of disagreement about the solution," he said, noting that he fully supports the concept of getting every American covered with affordable health care coverage, that lifetime caps on health care payments should be banned, and that pre-existing condition exclusions should also be prohibited.
"Insurance is supposed to help you under the worst circumstances, and it makes no sense to have these exclusions," he said. "But if we don't fix this cost growth in health care reform, it's an open-ended problem for the government and individual families to pay those bills."