U.S. House Democrats trotted out their health care reform plan last Thursday called the Affordable Health Care for America Act. The plan includes a high-risk pool for citizens who don’t have health care coverage. Early last week the Senate unveiled a health care plan with a public option that states could opt-out of. Congressional Republicans have battled against any kind of public option. During a town hall meeting at Furman University in early October, South Carolina Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said that he was convinced that if the government created a public option as one of the choices for health care the private insurance industry as we know it today would go out of business. Graham says the opt-out feature in the Senate bill lacks clarity.
“As they rolled out the public option with an opt out again it is not going to pick up any Republican votes. I think a lot of moderate Democrats are not going to go down that road. My concern is what are you opting out of. Can you opt out of the taxes that will be assessed? Can you opt out against the fines? If you opt out of the public option, whoopts out? Is it the governor, the legislature, or the people through a vote on a state referendum? It makes no sense to me.”
Graham says a public option would reduce the market share and compromise private choice.
Earlier this month the Congressional Budget Office reported that the House bill that would cost $829 billion over 10 years was revenue neutral and would reduce the deficit by $81 billion over the 10 year budget window. A number of Congressional Democrats were hopeful that the news would win some votes from the G.O.P. However Graham says he is against that measure becomes of the methods it outlines that makes it revenue neutral.
“The bills spend between $800 billion to $1.1 trillion of new money. The way the bills become revenue neutral is bey reducing Medicare over a 10 year period from $400 to $500 billion. So my answer is no! I don’t believe we’re going to do that. Two years ago Congress tried to reduce Medicare spending by $33.8 billion and got 24 votes, so there is no way Congress is going to reduce Medicare spending by $500 billion.”
Graham says Medicare is already underfunded and if you reduce Medicare further that would mean that you would have to generate new taxes in the area of $300 to $400 billion in order to make the current health care plan proposals revenue-neutral.
Graham says he is a co-sponsor of The Wyden-Bennett bill that he says is not getting much attention right now. Graham says the measure makes sense and was created through a bipartisan effort. “The bill was composed through the efforts of seven Republicans and seven Democrats. The measure mandates they everyone be covered but it allows for persons to purchase coverage through the private sector. You take tax deductions and give them to employers and give them to employees over a three year period. You subsidize people that don’t have enough money to pay for their health care premiums in the private sector. You basically empower individuals to purchase private health care in the private sector but you mandate coverage which to me is a good compromise.
According to the Wyden-Bennett bill premium subsidies would be provided on a sliding scale based on income to help make the coverage provided through the new purchasing pools affordable for low and moderate income families.