The Week Just Past
"Speaker Pelosi came out from behind closed doors yesterday and presented her latest version of her health care reform. It is a 2,000-page monstrosity that is filled with job-killing tax increases and new government regulations and mandates. To illustrate this point, we counted and found that the bill contains the word shall' over 3,400 times! (In legislative language, that means require!')
"While we have not had time to analyze Speaker Pelosi's bill in-depth, three things about the bill are already clear: it will raise the cost of Americans' health insurance premiums; it will kill jobs with tax hikes and new mandates; and it will cut seniors' Medicare benefits.
"Let me say it one more time: I support health reform. There are areas where Republicans and Democrats can and should work together. Many of these areas are addressed in a new bill I cosponsored this week, the Medical Rights and Reform Act of 2009. This legislation provides a solid foundation upon which we can enact true health care reform that the American people need and can afford.
"But that is clearly not the route Speaker Pelosi is taking. Instead, she will bring her current bill to the floor next week and it is very likely that a massive 600-page 'manager's amendment' will be added to the bill on the floor. And floor debate on the bill and that manager's amendment' will be very limited and few, if any, other amendments will be allowed.
"For legislation that could transform one-sixth of our entire economy, this abbreviated debate does a real disservice to the American people. "
Nine Facts About Speaker Pelosi's Latest Health Care Bill
1. It Still Raises Taxes on Small Businesses
Individuals, including small business owners (who pay their business taxes at the individual level) making $500,000 ($1 million joint) will be hit with a 5.4% surtax.
Employer mandate still applies to small businesses
Small employers with a payroll as low as $500,000 will be hit with a tax.
(0 percent (<$500,000), 2 percent ($500,000-$585,000), 4 percent ($585,000-$670,000), and 6 percent ($670,000-$750,000)).
2. New Medical Device Tax
The Pelosi bill includes a new 2.5% excise tax on the sale of a medical device in the United States. Some have taken to calling this the "wheelchair tax" as it will cover everything from bandages to prosthetics.
3. New Taxes on Health Savings Accounts
The Pelosi bill eliminates the nontaxable reimbursements of over-the-counter medication from Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA), and Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA).
4. New Payroll Tax
The Pelosi bill creates a new "voluntary" payroll tax to fund new long-term care program--requiring mandatory spending--aka a new entitlement.
5. Members of Congress are Exempt from "Public Option"
The Pelosi bill doesn't require Members of Congress to enroll in the new government-run plan. Instead the language says the Members "may" enroll in the public option. In contrast the bill uses the word "shall" 3,425 times.
6. Doctors' Reimbursement Levels Are Up in the Air / Budget Gimmicks
The new government-run plan will reimburse providers based on rates set by the government. "Negotiated rates" could start at Medicare and future rates could be set at levels below Medicare reimbursements. The Secretary of Health and Human Services could coerce doctors to participate in the program by tying participation to other government run health programs, like Medicare.
Removes the Medicare Doc Fix. The Pelosi bill does not include doc fix--instead it has been introduced as a stand alone bill, unpaid for -- meaning that Democrats' proposals really aren't deficit neutral.
7. Reduces Affordability Credits and Instead Expands Medicaid
The Pelosi bill reduces the size of the affordability credits for patients to purchase the insurance in the exchange and instead expands eligibility for Medicaid to 150% of the federal poverty level--placing more Americans on entitlement programs at a cost to both the federal and state governments.
8. Significantly Changes the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program
The Pelosi bill requires the Secretary of HHS to negotiate drug prices for the prescription drug program. There are also several provisions in the bill that will likely increase seniors premiums, as identified by CBO, including a requirement that would force seniors to pay at least an additional 20 percent more for their Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D).
9. No Real Medical Liability Reform, Instead Rewards Trial Lawyers
The Pelosi bill includes a new grant program to encourage states to implement alternative medical liability reforms like early offer or certificate of merit programs. However, a state is not eligible for the incentive payments if its law limits attorneys' fees or imposes caps on damages--a key reform recognized by CBO as necessary to reduce defensive medicine.
To Read H.R. 3962, Speaker Pelosi's bill, visit:
Supporting the Medical Rights and Reform Act
This week, Rodney cosponsored the new The Medical Rights and Reform Act, H.R. 3970 - the lowest cost health care reform bill introduced in Congress. It is does not increase the deficit or our debt and allows individuals a tax deduction similar to employers for their health coverage. The bill does not cut Medicare, but rather is 'paid for' by halting the expenditure of unspent funds from the failed economic 'stimulus' bill.
"I have always supported common-sense reform and the Medical Rights and Reform Act provides a solid foundation," he said. "It aims to lower the cost of health care, expand coverage, encourage personal responsibility, address pre-existing conditions, ensure quality, and protect the doctor-patient relationship. And by ending lawsuit abuse, promoting prevention and wellness programs, and reforming insurance markets -- this plan will help millions of Americans without breaking the bank and without transferring Americans' medical rights to the government!"
Noted with Interest: "no one in charge"
The Washington Post headline called it "a large vacancy" this morning in referring to the fact that the Obama Administration has not gotten around to nominating someone to head the key Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) -- the agency which oversees the government's health insurance programs for the elderly, disabled and poor. The Post wrote: "So there's still no nominee to run the largest insurance company in the entire world, covering more than 114 million people, and most every health-care reform proposal adds millions more to that number.'
Jobless Recovery Underway?
Rodney this week noted news from the Commerce Department that our economy actually grew over 3-percent in the third quarter of this year. "Any positive signs for our economy are welcome, but a jobless recovery is not what the people of New Jersey want," he said. "They were assured that the trillion-dollar stimulus' would create jobs immediately and keep the unemployment rate below eight percent. Since then, roughly three million private sector jobs have been lost and unemployment has risen to near 10 percent. For New Jersey families struggling to make ends meet or to rebuild their investment and pension savings, this recession feels far from over."
Recommended Reading II: Monday editorial in the Wall Street Journal: "The Spending Rolls On."
"The White House disclosed the other day that the fiscal 2009 budget deficit clocked in at $1.4 trillion, amid the usual promises to do something about it. Yet even as budget director Peter Orszag was speaking, House Democrats were moving on a dozen spending bills for fiscal 2010 that total 12.1% in more domestic discretionary increases.
"Yes, 12.1%..." Read More:
Retreating in Afghanistan?
As recently as August, President Obama declared U.S. and NATO military operations in Afghanistan a war of necessity.' Now, as the Obama Administration moves into the ninth week of its second "comprehensive review" of Afghanistan policy this year, a new approach just may be taking shape.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that President Obama's advisers are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting only the 10 top population centers, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability. The reports indicated that at the moment, the Administration is looking at protecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters. A strategy of protecting major Afghan population centers, while tolerating or ignoring insurgent activity in rural areas could be described as "McChrystal for the city, Biden for the country" as one administration official put it, citing General Stanley McChrystal's recommendation to conduct operations to protect the Afghan population and Vice-President Biden's suggestion that military force be used solely to eliminate the Taliban and al Qaeda.
However, many military experts wonder if allowing the Taliban relatively free reign in the Afghan countryside is not an open invitation to the re-establishment of the al Qaeda enclaves and training camps that existed before September 11, 2001.
Furthermore, there is speculation that the President will send only 20,000 troops, not the 40,000 that his hand-picked commander recommended1
Is a "Flu Czar" Right Around the Corner?
The Democratic Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security believes that federal authorities were underprepared for the increase in H1NI cases. Chairman Bennie Thompson (MI) made the statement Wednesday after a hearing involving officials from the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In the hours immediately following distribution of our last eNews, President Obama declared the outbreak of the H1N1 flu to be a "National Emergency."
Flu season has not even started yet. Federal health officials report that the flu season' is generally the time frame between December and April. February is typically the worst month.
In the United States alone, seasonal flu typically affects about 40 million people, sends 200,000 of them to the hospital and kills about 36,000 each year. In a typical year, the elderly account for 90 percent of flu deaths.
However, this H1N1 flu appears to be different, affecting children in greater numbers. About 1,000 people have died from H1N1 - including about 100 children which is more than die in a full year of seasonal flu.
A lack of vaccine is a nationwide problem. 120 million doses were supposed to be available by now, but only around 13 million have been delivered. Additional doses will not be ready until November and December which is well into America's flu season.
To Find a H1N1 or Seasonal Flu Shot, visit the New Jersey Department of Health website:
House Approves Funding for Frelinghuysen Open Space, Clean Water Priorities
The House of Representatives has approved $4 million for Rodney's Highlands Conservation Act (HCA) and $1 million to acquire additional land for the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The funding for these important projects is contained in the Fiscal Year 2010 Interior Appropriations bill (H.R. 2996) approved by the House and Senate this week.
"This funding for the Highlands Conservation Act continues to move us toward achieving our goal of cleaner drinking water and more open space for the people of New Jersey through the purchase of land from willing sellers," said Rodney, the author of the federal Highlands Conservation Act and New Jersey's senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. "At a time when few land acquisitions from willing sellers are being funded, this legislation makes a strong statement about the national significance of protecting the Highlands and Great Swamp."
"The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge sits amid the congestion of northern New Jersey's densely populated suburban areas. This funding will help better protect the refuge's pristine wildlife," he said. The funding will be used to acquire a designated parcel of land, known as the Great Brook Property.
"Thanks to the remarkable work of Congressman Frelinghuysen, this bill includes significant funding for the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge," said Anthony Cucchi, New Jersey State Director, The Trust for Public Land. "The $1 million secured will go toward the purchase of 18 acres by the refuge of critical forested habitat land and wetlands, which provides protection for the threatened bog turtle. We praise the Congressman's commitment to protect New Jersey's important places and his continued support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund."
The four-state Highlands region encompasses 108 municipalities and more than 2 million acres of critical land and water resources of national significance in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. It is one of the last open space treasures in the most densely populated area of the United States. Overall, the region provides and protects drinking water supplies for 3.5 million New Jerseyans. Stressing local responsibility and public/private partnerships, the HCA requires state and local governments from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut to identify "willing sellers" and prioritize land acquisition projects.
The Great Swamp is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a network of lands and waters managed by the Department of Interior's United States Fish and Wildlife Service specifically for the protection of wildlife and its habitat. The Refuge consists of 7,600 acres of varied habitats and was established by an Act of Congress in 1960.