Today Congressman Eric Massa outlined his reasons for voting against H.R. 3962 on Saturday night. To summarize the specific votes: Rep. Massa voted for the rule of debate, against the Stupak Amendment and against final passage of the bill.
When H.R. 3962 was first introduced on Thursday, October 29th, Rep. Massa canceled his weekend schedule to read and review the legislation. Following seven days of studying the bill, consulting with experts and speaking with constituents, Rep. Massa announced his intention to vote against the bill.
Rep. Massa had several concerns because the legislation did not meet several of his key objectives, including guaranteed universal access for all Americans and an assurance of individual affordability. While this bill does contain a public option, it is far from a "robust" one and Rep. Massa pledged, in a letter months ago, to vote against anything less than that. The public option in this bill is available for only about 2% of the American population and its premium rates will match private health insurance, guaranteeing no effective competition in the marketplace.
Additionally, he thinks that this bill, if signed into law, will not do enough to regulate the private for-profit health insurance industry and will actually empower them further. This is a major problem with the legislation as far as he is concerned. During the months of public debate on this topic, Rep. Massa called for the health insurance industry to be able to write plans across state lines and, while this bill partially addresses this, it does not lift this exemption outright. As such, he views this as a half measure rather than true interstate competition and believes that the goals of interstate competition will not be realized.
Rep. Massa also expressed concerns about the constitutionality of the individual mandate. While the Constitution empowers the Congress to raise and levy taxes, there is no clear indication that it allows for Congress to require the public to purchase insurance plans if they can afford them.
Detailed careful reading and understanding of the bill shows that should this become law, property taxes in New York State must increase by a minimum of 3%. By increasing Medicaid availability to citizens with an income of 150% of the federal poverty level, the federal government passes to New York State and its counties a cost sharing increase of at least 3% at the county level. Rep. Massa views this as being exceptionally counterproductive to our economy at this time.
During the closing hours of the debate, Rep. Massa voted against the Stupak Amendment which he viewed as a significant universal increase of current federal law. For the first time, if passed, the federal government would have prohibited a private citizen from using private funding to buy an insurance policy that covered elements of reproductive rights. The bill as written is clear, no federal funding for abortion procedures is allowed. Rep. Massa agrees with that but does not support an increase in federal law on this matter. This amendment passed and became part of the final legislation.
While there are several provisions that he did like in the bill, such as the elimination of patient rejections on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and the closing of the Medicare Part D Donut hole, members of Congress cannot vote for one part of a bill and against another.
"There are several reasons why I voted 'no' on H.R. 3962," said Congressman Eric Massa. "I have always said that I will vote 'no' on a bad bill to try and get a better one and that's what I did. Reforming our health care system is critical to our economy and our nation, but I had some serious concerns regarding the bill that we voted on Saturday night. If the Senate is able to move forward, I hope we can get a better bill back for a conference version."