Some thoughts from U.S. Representative Glen 'GT' Thompson regarding Health Care

The following is an excerpt from U.S. Representative Glen “GT” Thompson, who will be featured on this weeks radio show, regarding the current health care debate. As a proponent of pulling back the curtain on the issues that matter to you, I thought it would be prudent to offer some insight to this issue.

Headline in The New York Times: “Public Option Push in Senate Comes With Escape Hatch.” I read that and thought, “Why have the Democrats crafted their health care reform in this manner? Why would they need an ‘escape hatch’?”

The following is my interpretation of what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is attempting. Some 61 percent of Americans oppose replacing private health insurance with a government-run option. Yet, a group of Democrats in the House and Senate desperately want to see a public option in the health care package. So, the Democratic leadership once again is trying to have it both ways. If you state doesn’t like the public option, it can pass a law to opt out of the program. That way they can say, “The public option is In the bill, but hey, it isn’t mandatory.”

How many states are going to opt out of the public option benefits when their citizens still must pay for it with various taxes and cuts? What sense would that make? Your money would then be going to support people in other states, who would be receiving health insurance through the public option. If they really wanted to make this fair, the Democrats would have come up with an opt-in provision. It would say if you like what we are proposing in the way of a public option, you can pass a law to take part in it in your state.

Instead, this is the camel’s nose under the tent. No state will opt out and the public option will run its course until we eventually have exactly what House and Senate Democrats want – a single payer, government run and controlled health system. Even though almost half of the country believes the Democrats’ bill will make health care worse for most Americans, they are moving forward. And two out of every three practicing physicians oppose the medical overhaul under consideration in Washington. Forty-five percent of Physicians have said they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement” if Congress passes the Obama plan. Keep in mind that 50 percent of physicians are more than 50 years old.

These are some of my concerns, but I am most worried for our seniors. This is an expensive program and the President doesn’t want it to be a bigger contributor to the deficit. Therefore, cuts must be made in order to pay for the new system. As a result, the Democrats propose taking $162 billion from the Medicare Advantage program. If you like your current plan, it had better not be Medicare Advantage because you can’t keep it – despite what promises may have been made.

Twenty-five percent of seniors in this country are enrolled in Medicare Advantage. A study in California showed those enrolled in Advantage plans spent 30 percent fewer days in the hospital and were 15 percent less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. I would say that accounts for a huge savings. But regardless of the facts, the Democrats don’t like the Medicare Advantage program.

What other cost cutting measures are in this bill for seniors? The Congressional Budget Office reports the Democrats’ health care plan will increase seniors’ Medicare prescription drug premiums by 20 percent over the next decade. In these tough economic times, older Americans, many on fixed incomes, should never be faced with a choice between prescriptions of putting food on the table.

Despite the finger pointing, Republicans are not against health reform. And this one is certainly in favor of a change. There are more than 40 Republican sponsored measures that would incrementally make changes to the system. One of the first changes I would support would be that no one would be denied access to insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Second would be addressing medical liability reform in a meaningful way. Third, if you lose or change your job, you and your family should continue to have access to affordable health coverage. Froth, would be allowing the purchase of health care insurance across state lines. There are many more areas where the two parties may agree.

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