Wednesday, Nov. 04, 2009
Granger decries healthcare bill
By Terry Evans
Democrats in Congress who drafted a healthcare bill to be voted on this week have no faith in one of its major components, said Congresswoman Kay Granger.
Earlier this year, Granger said, she signed a pledge that she would not vote for a public option unless Congress members would have to enroll in it.
That suggestion went nowhere, said the Republican representing Parker County and the rest of District 12. “The Democrats must not have much confidence in the Pelosi Healthcare Bill if they’re not willing to make it their plan, too,” she said. “We’ve said it should be in there, like a lot of other provisions, but they have 40 more votes than we do. We expect to be able to offer one amendment. That’s all they’ll give us.”
Granger objected to what she perceives as a rush to vote on a complicated bill that could ultimately cost the nation $1.2 trillion.
“They’re asking for three hours debate and allowing Republicans only one amendment for something that will change healthcare across our nation,” she said. “That’s not right. Healthcare is one sixth of our entire economy.”
Three hours of debate before the vote she expects to be called Thursday is ludicrous on a bill that was filed Friday, Granger said. Giving Republicans only one amendment is unfair, she added, quipping that she’d toyed with the idea of putting the mandatory Congressional enrollment into the amendment.
“I’d much rather see that amendemnt say ‘this is what healthcare reform should be,’” she said. “It should include tort reform.”
Granger lamented that in debates leading up to this bill, malpractice lawsuit situations in such states as Tennessee and Massachusetts had been mentioned, but never Texas.
“One of the problems we have is the number of physicians [in the nation],” she said. “When we [Texans] passed tort reform, 5,000 physicians moved to Texas, because they were free to practice medicine without that enormous threat of lawsuits. The main thing was that malpractice insurance rates were skyrocketing. When we passed tort reform, that made an enormous difference in [the cost of] malpractice insurance. Texas should be the model for national tort reform.”
Granger said Congress should do everything it can to lower the cost of healthcare insurance.
“That means insurance pools where small businesses like mine [an insurance agency she sold three years ago] can pool together to buy insurance like great big companies. Realtors, people who work from their homes, all those ways that recognize the work force today, we should be addressing costs. This bill doesn’t. It costs $1.2 trillion.”
Republicans already should have done what Granger is calling for, she admitted.
“We should have been working on this all along,” she said. “When I came in 13 years ago this was the top issue in town hall meetings. We did some things, but didn’t do everything. We nibbled around the corners.” Lauding President Obama for bringing the issue back, Granger applauded him for saying: “Let’s do something.” But she lamented that the Pelosi bill is not the change that people were asking for at those town hall meetings.
“They didn’t want something that would destroy the best health care system in the world,” she said. Despite rankings that put the United States lower than some third-world nations in some areas of public health, Granger was adamant about its quality.
“The rankings I pay attention to are breast cancer and other cancers, and what the cure rates are,” she said. “We lead the world in the way we address major illnesses that affect the greatest number of people. That’s why people come from all over the world to be treated in the United States.”
Granger cited circumstances surrounding H1N1 vaccines as evidence if poor government influence.
“That is a government program and no one knows where to go, whether they should go, who is served first,” she said. “The form that was given to our district office to answer someone who asks ‘What do I do?’ said people between the ages of six months and 24 should get the vaccine. So, people started calling the office saying their children aren’t eligible at six months because there isn’t enough vaccine.”
Granger said she was on the health committee that worked on H1N1 vaccines for six years because they knew it was coming. She wonders what became of their work.
“We don’t have enough vaccine, can’t tell people in their communities when they’re going to get it or what the risk is,” she said. “I can’t even get the information to give out to people.”
Another example of poorly executed government-run healthcare is Medicare, Granger said.
“It’s going broke,” she said. “So we’re going to put another trillion dollar healthcare program out there when the one we have is going broke.”
Admitting that Medicare is important to a lot of people, Granger said that the increasing number of people going on the program is killing it.
“We live so much longer,” she said. “We put prescription drugs on [Medicare], which added to the cost and we’re not addressing cost savings.”
Granger lauded a federal campaign that tracked down and recovered nearly $1 billion in Medicare fraud.
The Star-Telegram reported Oct. 31 that about 300 cases of Medicare fraud were discovered this year through the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Teams, known as HEAT. Reporter Dianna Hunt wrote that HEAT is part of a nationwide crackdown on incidents of Medicare and Medicaid fraud that experts say cost taxpayers as much as $60 billion a year.
Granger cited campaigns against fraud as a examples of issues on which both sides of the House agree. Others include being able to buy insurance across state lines and portable insurance that goes with the insured from one job to another.
“People are stuck in jobs, because they can’t afford to lose their health insurance,” she said. “The average person now changes jobs nine times in their lifetimes. [Understanding] that people change jobs, that some are self-employed, that should be recognized as far as costs.”
Unfortunately, Granger said, agreement is a component that was missing in the months leading up to this bill.
“What should have happened on health care reform is that we all should have been working together,” she said. “Things like covering people with pre-existing conditions we all agree on. But, instead of working at that and having a real effort at it, we [Republicans] were literally closed out of the process.”
Granger said that The Pelosi Health Care Bill is an appropriate name for the legislation not only because that’s what Democrats call it in press conferences.
“That’s what I call it, because she [Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi] was very insistent on what should be in this bill,” she said. “In her press conferences, she would say this has to be in the bill and that has to be in the bill, when many of her own party’s members didn’t support some of the issues. That’s how we got to $1.2 trillion.”
Granger said Republicans also support some of the preventive services included in the bill.
“Community health centers have been very successful,” she said.
Citing Albert Galvan Health Clinic in north Fort Worth as an example, Granger said the clinic is in a neighborhood where residents need it.
“They get vaccinations, treatment for colds and all the things that people need who would go to emergency rooms if the clinic wasn’t there,” she said. “[Emergency room care] is the highest cost health care there is. Republicans want more community health centers.”
Granger said there are lots of answers for healthcare reform, but government-run health insurance for everyone is not something Republicans can support.
Nor do Republicans support mandated health insurance, Granger added.
“This bill says that if you don’t have health insurance you will be taxed,” she said. “If you don’t pay your tax, you go to jail. This bill started as healthcare reform and became insurance reform. We went from making sure that people have healthcare to making sure they have insurance. People who go to federally funded community health centers don’t have insurance.”
Granger said that anyone is eligible to receive medical care from a community health center.
“The price you pay is on a sliding scale,” she said. “If your salary is higher, the price you pay is higher.” Granger said that the tax-supported State Children’s Health Insurance Program can be considered a success, “if we can reach enough children. Some are covered at no cost and others at a percentage of income. So many people say their employer covers them but not the family, and they can’t afford to cover their families. SCHIP picks up those children.”
But Granger is opposed to government-run health insurance that eliminates other options.
“If you’re putting out the public option the way [Democrats] are describing it, it will start at a much lower cost [than private health insurance],” she said. “If you’re a business that insures employees with Blue Cross or Mutual of Omaha, and there’s this option that’s a much lower cost to begin with, companies will dump private insurance and go on the public option.”
As Granger understands the public option, it can be obtained by companies or individuals, and she fears that its cost to taxpayers and, ultimately, to the insured themselves will rise dramatically. Americans, she lamented, have been conditioned to see health insurance as the best way to access healthcare.
“Insurance is just the vehicle to get healthcare that we have assumed,” she said. “What you really want is the healthcare. Companies provided insurance as a benefit. It’s become the assumption that that’s the way you get the healthcare.”
Underlying the entire debate, Granger said, is a question that few have addressed.
“We should ask where the money [spent on healthcare] is going,” she said. “If you talk to doctors, they’ve been squeezed to the point that they’re leaving [the profession]. Insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies are where the money is going. I think there was an enormous overreach to begin with in this bill.”