GOP not to blame for health bill stagnation

February 11, 2010

America is in need of health care reform. On that fact, virtually all Americans agree. Yet I take issue with the letter "Who do Republicans think they're helping?" (Readers respond, Feb. 11) and the insinuation that Republicans are distorting the facts and against reform in general.

Here are the facts:

Republicans and Democrats have been calling for reform of the health care system for years. The health care system has gone through many reforms dating back to the 1990s, and reforms continue to this day. The Republican Party has offered a new reform package, and posted it online, which is a far cry from the backroom deals and shady shenanigans the Democrats have used throughout this process.

It's a fact that the entire health care debate was not captured live on C-SPAN, as President Obama said it would be.

It's a fact that the state of Louisiana was given $300 million as part of the Senate health reform bill, and that no other state was given such funding. Presumably this deal was given to get the state's holdout senator on board with the reform package.

It's a fact that a deal was carved out for Nebraska to be given a permanent exemption from the state share of Medicaid expansion. No other state was given an exemption from payments. Presumably this deal was given to get the state's holdout senator on board with the reform package.

It's a fact that part of the funding for the health care reform package offered by the Democrats is to come from a tax on "high-cost" health insurance plans. And it's a fact that the only Americans exempted from this tax are organized labor unions. And it's a fact that organized labor unions are among the largest contributors to the Democratic Party. And it's a fact that under this plan the 87 percent of Americans who don't belong to a union will now foot the bill for a $60 billion giveaway to those who do.

On tort reform, it's a fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 1,990-page bill contains a provision that provides "incentive payments" to each state that develops an "alternative medical liability law" but strictly forbids payments to states that enact laws that "limit attorneys' fees or impose caps on damages." Of course, everyone knows these limits are exactly the tort reform that's needed, in addition to requiring trial lawyers to pay the fees of defendants who win frivolous lawsuits. It's a fact that the American Association of Justice, the top trial lawyer lobbying group, has given Democrats 96 percent of its $627,000 in contributions, and Republicans only 4 percent, and that a Washington Examiner analysis of the 15 firms on the National Law Journal's "2008 Plaintiff's Hot List" shows that for 2009, their employees have contributed $636,305 to federal politicians and PACs, 99 percent going to Democrats in 2009. And the payback from the Democrat's has been sweet, to the detriment of the American people.

These are the facts, and they easily refute Burke Sampson's suggestion that Republican distortion of the facts is even necessary to put the brakes on this boondoggle. And the 219 page Republican reform bill posted on should refute Mr. Sampson's claim that the Republicans have no viable ideas for how to address these problems. I suggest that Mr. Sampson, like virtually all Americans, has read neither the Republican reform package nor the Democrats' reform package in it's entirety, and hence has no idea if the Republican reform measures are in fact viable. It's a fact that the Republican reform package is much less expensive, and that President Obama just revealed a $3.8 trillion budget on Monday, by far the largest in history, which includes another $1.3 trillion to be borrowed from the Chinese and other lenders.

Lastly, it's a fact that the Democrat's could have passed their health reform package last year without a single Republican vote, as they had a filibuster-proof majority. All they needed was a bill that all Democrats could swiftly agree on. So the blame Republicans mantra isn't going to wash on this one. All they needed to do was come up with a bill that didn't stink, and it would have been game over. Unfortunately, the Democrats are beholden to too many special interests, rendering them incapable of concocting a bill that would actually benefit America's struggling middle class. And Americans who were paying attention hardly needed Republican's to tell them that.

Michael P. DeCicco, Severn

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