Tis’ the season in Congress for tricks on the American people and treats for special-interest groups who have key senators in their corner.
Let me explain. Special-interest groups are, without question, a driving force behind the president’s health-care push. Lobbyists for the health-care and drug industries have negotiated lucrative deals and concessions for insurers and drug makers in exchange for their support. The only loser in these deals is the American people.
To give you some perspective, two weeks after Barack Obama was elected president, the country’s largest health insurance trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), came out in support of forcing all Americans to purchase health insurance (the individual mandate). In exchange for the promise of millions of new enrollees, some of the country’s biggest insurers agreed to the Democrats’ proposed regulation of their industry. Rather than fight the party with complete control of Washington, insurance companies understand that supporting the Democrats’ takeover will prove to be quite lucrative.
Despite the recent demonization of health-insurance companies, Nancy Pelosi, insurers and the Congressional Democrats are in near unanimous agreement when it comes to imposing their will on the American people. For example, consider the individual mandate which forces all Americans to buy a government-approved plan. Both Democrats and insurers support stiff penalties or even jail time for failure to comply with the mandate! The proof: Not a single Democrat has signed my resolution, H.Res. 796, opposing fines and jail time for the uninsured in any health-care-reform bill.
This is a stark contrast to President Obama’s statement in 2008, when he eloquently stated on the campaign trail that an individual mandate punishes those who cannot afford insurance. Not once but twice Obama said: “[H]ere are people who are paying fines and still can’t afford it, so now they’re worse off than they were. They don’t have health insurance, and they’re paying a fine.” Unfortunately, President Obama has now flip-flopped on his opposition to an individual mandate and supports it along with the powerful insurance industry.
There are several key reasons the president’s plan to reform health care isn’t the deal its being “messaged” to be. First, these new mandates and regulations will drive up costs. According to the left-leaning Commonwealth Fund, Massachusetts — which passed health “reform” legislation that, is nearly identical to what Congressional Democrats are pushing on a national level (including an individual mandate) — it now has the most expensive health-insurance market in the country. Lucky for them, under the newly approved Baucus plan, citizens of the Bay State will get help from a reinsurance program designed to defray the medical costs of union members.
This new program is one of the many corrupt back-room deals that blue-state Senators and special interest groups have succeeded in sneaking in the proposals working their way through Congress.
For example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid struck a deal for the federal government to pay all of Nevada’s Medicaid expenses for the next five years. Senator Chuck Schumer upped the threshold for New Yorkers’ “high value plans,” creating a tax-shield. Senator Menendez secured a $1 billion tax credit for pharmaceutical companies investing in research and development in New Jersey.
Speaking of R&D, the drug industry also stands to make huge gains from the Congressional Democrats’ government takeover of health care. In exchange for promising $80 billion in “savings” (much of the so-called savings comes from the new sales of brand-name prescription drugs), Democrats promised to limit the exposure of pharmaceutical companies in any health-care-reform bill. Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), has publically confirmed this deal and agreed to spend $150 million running advertisements with the liberal advocacy group, Families USA, in support of health care “reform.”
So far, President Obama has failed to negotiate transparently on health-care reform, and has succeeded at including alarming policies which result in a total government takeover of our health care system. Soon, Washington bureaucrats will have complete control over our health-care system, which represents 1/6 of our economy. Insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers will get richer. Unfortunately, the American people will have less choice and be forced to foot the bill for a trillion-dollar-plus piece of legislation the country simply can’t afford.
While Americans are busy carving pumpkins, Nancy Pelosi and the liberal-led Congress will likely be ushering through the most frightening government takeover of health care our nation has ever seen.
– John Shadegg is a Republican congressman from Arizona.