Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Heathcare and Our Congressmen

As the debate on health care, a whole lot of words are floating around not only on Capital Hill, but in our own backyards. There are proposals for government-run insurance plan, a publicly funded non-profit, yet privately owned co-op, and the Republicans are offering tax credits. This may sound simple when posed as three choices, but the Congress never likes to make things simple. Here is where the debate stands right now. A majority of the House and Senate Republicans support an option where the government give those who are uninsured a tax credit, where the government just doesn't take your money that you already earned because the Government sees that is better for you to spend your money on health care than paying another $5000 dollars to the IRS. Hmm, it seems good on paper yet so do many things that really aren't. The proposal gives an inadequate amount to those uninsured and fails to address the problem of cutting costs. The co-op proposal also seems well in practice, but there are many questions that remain unanswered. Are we going to drive costs down with a privately owned company with less leverage? Who knows the Congress might be throwing cash at a program that might not work? Can anyone say the the Bush Stimulus Checks that we all put in the bank when we were supposed to be "stimulating" the economy? The co-ops major draw is that it doesn't "bring us down the slippery slope of socialism" as fast as a public plan would. This solicits the support of centrist members of both caucuses like Ben Nelson, Susan Collins, and Evan Bayh. The only problem is that mainstream dems and repubs would never go for this. This fact also kills the prospect of a 70-80 vote in favor of health reform. Last, the public option is the one with the most support and the backing of the American Public. Americans as a whole support universal coverage. They also support a public plan that they believe would drastically lower skyrocketing premiums. The problem is that the public option could only gain about 59-60 votes at best, and if Mary Landreiu joins the Republicans in a filibuster, the Democrats would have to use the reconciliation option which would show desperation on the part of the Democratic leadership. The senate is where the problems will occur. I have full faith that Pelosi can whip most of her caucus to come out for the public option, along with a few from the GOP side like Ahn Cao. My faith in Harry Reid, on the other hand, is less than I would desire. The centrist dems seem to be be so concerned that the public option would hurt them with their conservative constituencies, when in fact, their vote in favor might help them. Let's hope that these conflicts of interests do not derail much needed reform to the health care industry.

When you look at our state's senators, Senior Senator Jim Webb is all for the public plan, while Senator Warner has decided to wait and see where the debate goes. We need to urge Senator Warner to stand up for Virginians and support affordable health care for all. On the Congressional side, the State's congressional Delegation is rather divided. The GOP members of the delegation like Cantor and Forbes are vehemently against a public option. Moran, Perriello, and Scott are in favor of a public plan. Nye and Boucher, like Warner, have not expressed an opinion either way on whether they support a public option or not. Please, urge your congressman to stand up for the public plan. Write or email, I don't care.

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