Friday, November 20, 2009

Letter from D.C. -- and my response

Letter from Wyo. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, with her comments in red and mine in blue:

Dear Michael:

Thank you for contacting me regarding healthcare reform. It is good to hear from you.

Congressional Democrat leaders are working to create a new government-forced healthcare system that would put government bureaucrats between you and your doctor. The House Democrats' proposal - the Affordable Health Care for America Act of 2009 (H.R. 3962) - requires all individuals to purchase health insurance and all employers to provide health insurance to their employees or face steep tax penalties. The bill creates at least 111 new offices, programs and other bureaucracies - including a "Health Choices Commissioner" - that together will dictate to all Americans what health insurance they will be forced to purchase and how much the government should pay medical providers. The bill contains no prohibitions on federal bureaucrats denying access to life-saving treatments for patients.

No prohibitions exist at this time to prohibit health insurance company bureaucrats from denying access to necessary life-saving treatments to patients. Often, those insurance flunkies have no medical background and are making some pretty big decisions on long-term hospital stays, operations, and mental health treatment. You could call this rationing, and is exists now.

I don't know how many times I've chided Republicans for using "Democrat" instead of "Democratic" when referring to the party. We don't say "Republic Party," although some 10th amendment teabaggers might prefer the term. One of these days, the Republics will learn.

I agree with President Obama that people should be able to keep their health coverage if they like it, but this is not the case under H.R. 3962. While estimates range from several million to up to 114 million, experts agree that millions of Americans will end up being enrolled in the new government-run health plan created by H.R. 3962, many not because of choice but because of coercive government policies. Members of Congress, however, will not be required to enroll in the government-run health plan. Members of Congress who support this bill should be subjecting themselves to the same big government policies they wish to impose on the American people.

Members of Congress such as Rep. Lummis now are enrolled in a government-run health care system. Don't hear many complaints. Rep. Lummis underwent an operation earlier this year in Casper. Wonder if she used her taxpayer-funded health insurance to cover the bills.

To partially finance this over $1 trillion expansion of big government, the House Democrat health reform bill imposes over $700 billion in new taxes on individuals and businesses of all sizes. This includes $135 billion in taxes on individuals and businesses who cannot afford to purchase government-approved health insurance. Individuals would be subject to this tax regardless of their income, violating President Obama's pledge not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year.

I agree with Rep. Lummis that this tax issue is disturbing. I do think that some of that $700 billion in new taxes will come from rescinding Pres. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. I will check this.

Our nation's seniors would also have to foot some of the bill. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that H.R. 3962 will raise seniors' Medicare prescription drug premiums by 20 percent, even as Social Security benefits are estimated to stay flat for the next few years because of the bad economy. H.R. 3962 also slashes $150 billion from the Medicare Advantage program in which nearly 3,000 seniors in Wyoming are enrolled and from which they can obtain extra benefits and lower copayments.

Translation: seniors vote -- don't cross them.

I joined both Democrat and Republican Members in calling for the final language of H.R. 3692 to be posted online 72 hours before the House is expected to vote. Within this 72 hour period, I offered amendments to H.R. 3962 to allow states to protect their citizens from government-forced insurance, unfunded mandates, taxes and possible imprisonment for not buying bureaucrat-approved coverage, and government policies that come between patients and their doctors. My amendments and dozens of others were not allowed consideration on the House floor by the House Rules Committee, which also made several last minute changes to the bill the night before it was considered on the House floor. I voted against H.R. 3962, which passed by a vote of 220-215. A similar bill is now pending in the Senate.

I am urging our senators to vote for the Senate health care bill. They will not, but I shall continue urging them on until I am blue in the face. All over my body, and in my heart, too.

As an alternative, I support the Empowering Patients First Act (H.R. 3400). Under H.R. 3400, low-income, uninsured individuals would receive a tax credit to help them purchase private insurance. All Americans would receive a tax deduction for healthcare insurance costs, not just those that receive coverage through their employee. H.R. 3400 would devote more federal funds for state-based high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions that are unable to obtain private insurance. The plan would also allow small businesses to join together across state lines and create their own affordable health insurance plans. To safeguard access to medical care for Wyoming's seniors, H.R. 3400 prevents a scheduled 20 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians. Perhaps most importantly, H.R. 3400 respects and upholds the notion that individuals, not the government, should be in charge of their healthcare dollars.

This sounds like more Republican dithering. This is supposed to be reform, not tinkering.

H.R. 3400's cost to the taxpayer is fully offset. It accomplishes this in part by imposing a one-percent cut in non-Defense spending and repealing unspent economic stimulus funds. H.R. 3400 would also step up efforts to eliminate waste and fraud in our entitlement programs and reduce defensive medicine through targeted medical liability reforms.

Let's impose a 1 percent cut in non-Defense spending and a 2-percent cut in Defense spending. This can be accomplished by finally getting the hell out of Iraq. It's time to stop bringing democracy and security and higher education and better healthcare to Iraqis and start bringing it to Americans.

As the healthcare reform debate continues, I will continue focusing on patient-centered and not government-centered solutions to improve access to affordable healthcare in rural and frontier America. In Wyoming, it's not just cost that gets in the way of your healthcare, it's a lack of providers, whether for primary, specialty or mental health care. I have joined the House Rural Health Care Coalition to address the unique healthcare challenges we face in Wyoming that are not fully understood by our urban counterparts, such as reimbursing doctors and hospitals more fairly for Medicare patient procedures.

I am impressed that Rep. Lummis addresses accessibility to health care in Wyoming. I'm even more impressed that she mentions mental health care in our 97,000-square-mile state with not one pediatric psychiatrist. Thank you for joining the House health Care Coalition.

As for government-centered vs. patient-centered care... How can she call the current system "patient-centered?" Yes, Wyomingites with insurance can make the claim that they can visit the doctor or dentist or surgeon of their choice. I do that. Often those professionals are located down I-25 in Fort Collins, Loveland and Denver. Still, most are in the Great West/CIGNA network and I usually pay only the 20-percent deductible. I am employed and am lucky to have insurance for myself and my diabetic wife and my daughter with epilepsy and mental health issues. I also have the advantage of living in the state's largest city, Cheyenne, and right on the border of a more populous and more health-conscious state

But Wyomingites in small towns don't have much choice. The town may only have a few doctors and maybe a dentist. That's their choice. They can drive 50 or 100 or 300 miles to the nearest cancer or pulmonary specialist. Veterans have a choice of V.A. Hospitals in Cheyenne and Sheridan, and across the border in Rapid City. The V.A. sponsors shuttles to get these vets to a doctor. Sometimes they don't have a choice of doctors, but... Hold on. Vets have the best health care system that taxpayer funding can buy. Popular with Vets, too. Just ask one. Doggone that terrible government-centered health care!

Speaking of government-funded solutions... Thousands of the state's citizens get Medicaid funding. These are people with no insurance, or insurance that's inadequate for required medical or mental health treatments. Approximately 75,000 of our people are covered under Medicaid, including 50,582 children (2008 Children's Defense Fund figures).

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me on an issue of importance to all of Wyoming's citizens. Please keep in touch, and I look forward to seeing you in Wyoming.


Cynthia M. Lummis
Member of Congress

You're welcome, Rep. Lummis. Be seeing you next time you're in Wyoming.

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