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Bipartisan Ground Hard to Glimpse on Health Overhaul Legislation – Pacific Research Institute

Bipartisan Ground Hard to Glimpse on Health Overhaul Legislation

Democrats and Republicans at a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing on Tuesday didn’t disagree with each other on everything. Several agreed on support for community health centers and the need to provide the public with more information about medical prices. But on most other issues raised at the hearing on affordable health care, the two parties outlined sharp differences that are unlikely to be resolved before the full panel considers legislation to overhaul health care.

The two parties sparred over the need to create a public health program that would compete with private insurers, the effectiveness of private insurance plans that participate in Medicare, the role that illegal immigrants play in driving up health care costs and whether a public plan could lead to rationing of health care by the federal government.

Full committee ranking Republican Joe L. Barton of Texas declared at the outset of the hearing that Republicans are interested in working in a bipartisan manner.

“This isn’t an issue where we’re going to try to rope-a-dope the committee” and attempt to wear down the resistance from Democrats through a lengthy fight, said Barton, who didn’t stick around for most of the hearing. “We’re prepared to work on something that is in the middle and can be done and maintain the private health care plans of America.”

Many of Barton’s GOP colleagues raised concerns that a new government health plan option could lead to a single-payer government health system.

The first witness invited by Republicans was Canadian-born health care expert Sally Pipes, the president and CEO of Pacific Research Institute. Pipes said she opposed plans to increase “the role of government in our health care system through higher taxes, mandates and subsidies.” She pointed to long waits for patients in Canada, which has a government-run health system that controls prices — something that she said would be replicated in the United States if Congress adopted a public health care plan option. She likened a public option to “totally socialized health care” and a “Medicaid for All” program, referring to the federal low-income health program.

Pipes’ comments drew fire from Democrats such as California’s Anna G. Eshoo and witnesses such as Judy Feder, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and former Democratic congressional candidate.

“This is not about the government taking [health care] over,” Eshoo said. “This is about government rewriting the rules because it isn’t working.”

Eshoo challenged Pipes’ use of a quote by P. J. O’Rourke, who said, “If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it is free.”

Eshoo demanded, “Who’s talking about ‘free?’”

Feder said Pipes was invoking stereotypes to gin up ideological anger that did not relate to the congressional debate.

“I wonder if she’s truly following the plight of Americans” who don’t have insurance or whose insurance won’t cover medical needs, Feder said, “or following the type of American-style solution we’re talking about.”

Republicans defended the sentiments behind Pipes’ comments, saying a public plan option amounts to a government takeover of the health care system that could drive up costs for employers.

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., who also is an obstetrician-gynecologist, raised the specter that the government health plan would ration care.

Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of political economy, economics and public affairs at Princeton University, responded that health care should not be the only area in which there is not rationing. He also noted that the high prices of some procedures today amounts to rationing for low-income people.

Reinhardt called the notion that health care decisions should not be based to some degree on expense and the need to share scarce resources among a wide group of people “romantic and I think silly.”

Democrats, along with Reinhardt and Feder, also emphasized that if a public plan were created, Americans would be able to choose whether or not to join the program.

Republicans also brought up the issue of illegal immigration, saying uncompensated care by providers to immigrants is a burden on the health care system.

Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, who like Gingrey is an obstetrician-gynecologist, asked whether a health system overhaul could work if uninsured illegal immigrants are able to crowd emergency rooms and receive medical treatments for which they sometimes do not pay.

Most illegal immigrants work, noted Reinhardt. “We’ve let employers off the hook,” he said. “They should be made to pay for these people’s social services.”

Feder noted that although immigration is a serious national problem, most people who don’t have insurance in America are not illegal immigrants.

The committee plans more hearings on health care within the next couple of months, with the goal of sending a bill to President Obama by the August break.

ans at a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing on Tuesday didn’t disagree with each other on everything. Several agreed on support for community health centers and the need to provide the public with more information about medical prices. But on most other issues raised at the hearing on affordable health care, the two parties outlined sharp differences that are unlikely to be resolved before the full panel considers legislation to overhaul health care.

The two parties sparred over the need to create a public health program that would compete with private insurers, the effectiveness of private insurance plans that participate in Medicare, the role that illegal immigrants play in driving up health care costs and whether a public plan could lead to rationing of health care by the federal government.

Full committee ranking Republican Joe L. Barton of Texas declared at the outset of the hearing that Republicans are interested in working in a bipartisan manner.

“This isn’t an issue where we’re going to try to rope-a-dope the committee” and attempt to wear down the resistance from Democrats through a lengthy fight, said Barton, who didn’t stick around for most of the hearing. “We’re prepared to work on something that is in the middle and can be done and maintain the private health care plans of America.”

Many of Barton’s GOP colleagues raised concerns that a new government health plan option could lead to a single-payer government health system.

The committee plans more hearings on health care within the next couple of months, with the goal of sending a bill to President Obama by the August break.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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