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Alliance Times-Herald: Johanns Well Received at 'Open Coffee

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Johanns Well Received at 'Open Coffee

by Denice Aby - Alliance Times-Herald

Senate and former Nebraska Governor, Mike Johanns, made a stop in Alliance on Tuesday morning to touch base with residents and to present his views and answer questions about current issues in Washington.

Opening the meeting, Johanns was pleased by the large turnout saying, "What an amazing crowd," and joking that normally "we would have to call six of our best friends to show up."

In his address to attendees, Johanns illustrated how funds for the current administration's budget are designated noting, "People are very concerned about (national) debt."

Johanns pointed out that at seven percent, China is now the largest foreign holder of America's national debt."

Along with billions of dollars in tax inreases to fund the new healthcare bill, there is a "massive amount of deficit spending," he said and, "this is not sustainable."

The issue of the newly passed healthcare legislation was a main point of contention in Washington for the senator, and Johanns outlined how the legislation came to be, explaining that the House bill that passed last year and the Senate bill that passed with 60 votes on Christmas Eve were in fact two different bills.

During negotiations that took place afterward, when a Republican senator was elected in Massachusetts, the president then brought forth the same senate bill as his own.

Although Nebraska and Florida "got pulled out" of the bill, all other states' so-called "special deals" were not affected, and with a few "nips and tucks," said Johanns, this version of the healthcare bill that the president signed was passed with the reconciliation vote.

Johanns said he had been asked, "What about this bill is good?"

There is a provision in this bill that says a child with a pre-existing condition cannot be denied coverage, and Johanns said there was no debate on that matter, and he would certainly put that "in the column of good things."
Secondly, Johanns mentioned that in four years, pre-existing conditions for everyone will be phased in, and that, too could be put into the "column of good things."

Johanns estimated that 32 million people, half of whom will now qualify for Medicaid, will benefit from the new plan, "and that could be good," as well.
That said, Johanns stated, "Every gimmick was used to make this bill look good," from a financial standpoint.

When the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) does an analysis, Johanns explained they simply "score sets of circumstances," or what is "laid in front of them."

Johanns was emphatic that in consulting with a Health and Human Services actuary, that this plan would neither be a savings for those who already have medical insurance, nor for taxpayers.

"This is a lot of money, folks," he said. "There is a real economic cost, and it's huge."

The Senator said that for those with individual insurance plans, premiums would go up 13 to 15 percent, and would have a major impact on individual policyholders in our rural state.

"There appears to be a growing agreement that the younger population will pay the most."

Johanns noted that the younger age group who currently has a choice of whether or not to obtain medical insurance, now faces a federal mandate. "(This is) a degree of government involvement never before seen," and it is "taking away freedom of individual choice."

Not only will people have to carry medical insurance, he said, but it has to be a federally approved policy, as well.

Due to the fact that those earning $200,000 or more annually, will be taxed more under this bill, Johanns points out that small business owners very often fall into this category in Nebraska and across the country, and they would be adversely impacted.

Johanns points out that 35,000 Nebraskans are on Medicare Advantage plan, yet the president's bill cuts $500 billion from this program in order to begin to fund the new bill.

Home healthcare services, skilled nursing facilities, and hospice services will begin to see funding cuts next year.

Critical care access facilities in rural areas that have 25 or fewer beds could be severely and irrevocably impacted by this legislation, due to the fact that Medicare reimbursements do not facilitate financial viability, and may cause a decrease in the number of providers that accept Medicare patients.
"Medicaid," Johanns said, "is a very broken system," pointing out that it does not make sense to add more people to an entitlement program that is already inefficient.

The senator addressed audience members' questions as thoroughly as possible, including Japan's continued ban on U.S. beef imports, however, with visits to Sidney, Chappell, and Ogallala, on the schedule for the first day of a three-day itinerary, Johanns urged Nebraskans to contact his office with any questions or concerns, and he would make every attempt to personally address those matters.

Please include full name, full address and phone number. The senator's contact information can be found at johanns.senate.gov.


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