Health debate is case of ‘March Madness,’ Upton saysPublished 9:02am Friday, March 19, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Though the American people may feel like they’ve heard this all before, the debate on health care reform seems to be narrowing down to a close, with many key Democrats on Capitol Hill feeling as though they may have all the votes needed to pass the legislation that is said to expand coverage to millions of those without health insurance.
“Right as we speak (Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi does not have the 216 votes needed” to see the bill signed into law, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said Thursday afternoon.
Should the legislation be voted on and passed, it would mark a victory for the president and mostly Democrats who have supported the move to reform health care despite continued opposition from critics made up of both republicans and some democrats.
“There’s a bamboo shortage right now … to put under the fingernails of my colleagues,” Upton said, commenting on the endless push from key players behind the bill to secure those needed votes.
“They’re doing everything they can to try and break every arm and convince 216 to vote for it,” he said.
Speaking from Strongsville Ohio on Tuesday, Obama pushed the benefits from the bill saying with the legislation “all new insurance plans would be required to offer free preventive care to their customers starting this year – so free check-ups to catch preventable diseases on the front end. ”
He added certain restrictions would also be eliminated with new plans purchased this year. “There won’t be lifetime or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care you receive from your insurance companies,” Obama said. “So you won’t be surprised by the fine print that says suddenly they’ve stopped paying and you now suddenly are $50,000 or $100,000 or $200,000 out of pocket. That won’t – that will not happen if this becomes law this year.”
Big news came Thursday when the Congressional Budget Office released a report that the Associated Press said showed the legislation would cost $940 billion, saving $138 billion in the first 10 years and $1.2 trillion the next.
Though he hadn’t seen the statistics yet, Upton was critical.
“Don’t believe it for a minute,” he said. “Does anyone really believe that this bill is really going to reduce this deficit?”
Upton also referred to a survey conducted by The Medicus Firm “a nationally retained physician search firm.” The survey, which randomly selected physicians from the firm’s database found “about 25 percent of respondents were primary care physicians (defined as internal medicine and family medicine in this case), and of those, 46 percent indicated that they would leave medicine – or try to leave medicine – as a result of health reform.”
“We’ve gone from choosing our own doctors to whether or not doctors will choose you,” Upton said.
Obama, who is expected to speak about health care insurance reform today in Fairfax, Va. at George Mason University’s Patriot Center, again postponed a planned trip to Asia.
The president was scheduled to leave on Sunday, which is also when proponents of the legislation expect to have the votes they need to pass legislation. There are about 12 votes Upton said Pelosi needs to see the bill voted in on Sunday as expected. No amendments are being accepted, meaning this is the last call for health care reform.
“But remember she said she had the votes at Labor Day and then Thanksgiving and then Christmas and now it’s March Madness,” he said.
Upton is scheduled to address the Berrien County Manufacturer’s Council at their annual breakfast on Monday.
“This is an important group in large part because you know we have lost one in five manufacturing jobs the last two and a half years,” he said. His appearance may be hampered depending on this weekend’s outcome.
He added he felt his party was “learning from this experience that we need an open process. This last year we didn’t have a single major issue that was open for amendment. That has to change, we ought to have a full debate,” Republicans and Democrats, he said.
Asked to make a prediction for Sunday Upton, a March Madness fan made this call, “I don’t think she (Pelosi) is going to get the votes by Sunday.”
What the proposed health care reform would mean for Michigan:
• 1.3 million residents who do not currently have insurance and 459,000 residents who have non-group insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange.
• 797,000 residents could qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health coverage.
• 1.6 million seniors would receive free preventive services.
• 279,000 seniors would have their brand-name drug costs in the Medicare Part D “donut hole” halved.
• 109,000 small businesses could be helped by a small business tax credit to make premiums more affordable.
The legislation is also said to benefit families, seniors and small businesses
• Ensure consumer protections in the insurance market
• Create immediate options for people who can’t get insurance today
• Ensure free preventive services
• Support health coverage for early retirees
• Lower premiums by reducing Medicare’s overpayments to private plans
• Reduce prescription drug spending
• Cover free preventive services
For small businesses
• 109,000 small businesses in Michigan could be helped by a small businesses tax credit proposal that makes premiums more affordable and these small businesses would be exempt from any employer responsibility provisions.
Source: “The Case for Change,” U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, www.healthreform.gov