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Jul 29, 2009 12:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Congressman defends calls for health care reform

Jul 29, 2009 12:06 PM

As the debate over national health care reform rages on in Congress, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton is voicing support for a strong public health insurance option aimed at reducing the power insurance companies have over health care costs.

The option proposed in America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, the legislation spearheaded by President Barack Obama, calls for the creation of a public insurance plan that would compete with private health insurance companies in the hopes of controlling rising premiums, Mr. Bishop said. The plan would be managed by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and would pay rates comparable to Medicare, he said.

“The public option would not be supported by taxpayer money. It would have to be supported by premiums, just the way private plans are supported, and it would compete on a level playing field with the private plans,” said Mr. Bishop, a Democrat. “So this is not socialized medicine. This is not the nationalization of health care. This is simply having another option available provided by the federal government for families and individuals to choose from.”

As of Tuesday, the details of the bill were still being ironed out by lawmakers in the House and Senate, and versions of it were under consideration in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

Mr. Bishop said the House will not vote on the bill before its summer recess on July 31. Last week, Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, announced that the Senate would also not vote on the legislation before its recess on August 7.

The current version of the House bill seeks to spread health care coverage to the uninsured by expanding Medicaid and Medicare at a cost of an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, Mr. Bishop said. The House’s bill would also impose a mandate for Americans to have health insurance, and require small businesses with payroll exceeding $250,000 to offer health insurance to their employees or pay a fine, the Congressman said.

To help pay for the expansion of Medicaid and Medicare, the bill would impose a tax on individuals earning more than $280,000 a year and on couples making more than $350,000 a year. The tax, ranging from 1 to 5.4 percent depending on annual income, would raise nearly $600 billion over 10 years, Mr. Bishop said. The fine on businesses and individuals who don’t obtain coverage would also contribute about $200 billion to expanded government insurance programs, according to a report by the House Ways and Means Committee.

In the 1st Congressional District, which Mr. Bishop represents and which encompasses most of Suffolk County, there are about 83,000 uninsured people, 67,000 of whom would gain access to health care under the House bill, according to a report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Nationwide, about 40 million of the estimated 47 million uninsured people in America would be able to receive health coverage with the reforms.

“One thing that we should all be able to agree on is that the status quo is simply unacceptable,” Mr. Bishop said. “If 14,000 Americans a day lose their health insurance, there is not a reasonable person alive that can think that is affordable. I certainly can’t.”

Republicans have objected to the health care plan citing fears that it will cost too much and that the public option will leverage unfair competition against private insurance companies. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele recently criticized the House Democrats’ public health care plan for taking what he said is a step towards socialized medicine.

“The Democrats’ priorities for health care reform are now clear: a government-run system financed on the 
backs of Americans and small businesses with higher taxes,” Mr. Steele said in a prepared statement. “The Democrats’ government-run plan won’t reduce health care costs, it won’t allow Americans to keep their insurance or doctors and it won’t promote competition. But it will result in a government takeover where bureaucrats determine what health care treatments 
Americans receive, if they can receive them at all.”

Mr. Bishop countered by complaining that the Republican Party has not presented any alternatives of their own. “They do not have a single suggestion for how we reform a system that everybody quickly agrees is very badly broken,” he said.

The Congressman also argued that a public option would “keep the private plans honest” and help “bend the curve” as health care costs increase. He said the public option would expand patients’ choice of doctors, not limit it.

“Premiums increase every year. They have increased dramatically over the last five to 10 years,” Mr. Bishop said. “Perhaps, with the public plan that the private plans would have to be competing with, they would not be so quick to raise premiums.”

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Thank you, Mr. Bishop. I only hope your voice can be heard over the chatter.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jul 30, 09 5:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
Mr. Bishp will do as he is told no matter what we think about it. The "healthcare
reform" legislation is incomprehensible. Socialist medicine that extends benefits
to non-citizens and forces all taxpayers to fund abortion on demand is not what I think the majority of this district or this nation wants. But Mr. Bishop will
make a show of it. I doubt if he has read, or will bother to read, the bill. Why should he? He is an easy vote for Nancy Pelkosi. She probably doesn't even have ...more
By JDBeeee (3), East Hampton on Aug 1, 09 4:16 AM
Michael Steele doesn't care about uninsured people in our country.
The insurance companies do not want to cover those who get seriously ill, they'll lose money. Is that giving us a choice of health care?

If you become seriously ill and the insurance companies won't cover you, that is not giving you a choice of health care. We need National Health Insurance.

Nothing is free. We can all be covered if we all share the expense.
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Aug 1, 09 7:54 AM
2 members liked this comment
I agree with Bob Whyte.

I spent 32 years in healthcare and the current system is broken and unsustainable. How can we tolerate the fact that we spend about $6000 per capita more on healthcare yet rank so low on health measures like mortality rates, infant death rates and other measures.

There is a lot of intentional misleading propaganda coming from the right wing about these bills (of which now there are 4 with another pending, these have to be reconciled in a jount committee ...more
By number19 (111), Westhampton on Aug 1, 09 9:15 AM
for those that think the plan is so great, i would like to know how many of you have read it. if you think things are bad now....this won't save a dime AND you will have sold the rights to your body, your access to healthcare and the responsibility of your care to the US government. reform isn't overhaul. resposible reform yes, obamacare NO!
By thetruthhurts (21), southampton on Aug 1, 09 2:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is all "pie in the sky" - "something for nothing" thinking. I worked very hard for many years to finally get health insurance. I am the critically ill person you keep talking about and I have not been denied anything I have needed. I think we will have an excellent healthcare reform bill when the Senators and Congresspeople agree to have the same kind that we will get - no exceptions
except the president for obvious reasons. But his children and his wife should have the same health ...more
By JDBeeee (3), East Hampton on Aug 1, 09 4:12 PM
Now is the time that the neocons will really start spreading their lies about "socialized medicine" and "government control". Those of you who are happy paying exorbitant premiums to insurance companies whose job it is to deny claims and make the most profit possible, you will still be free to do so. Those of us who believe in competition can choose the public option. Even the top conservatives admit that, despite some flaws, the best run health 'CARE' in this country is the veteran's administration ...more
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 1, 09 5:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Read Jonathan Alter's wonderful piece in Newsweek. Probably the best yet parody of the far right and their ridiculous scare tactics and their stubborn determination to say no, no matter what the cost to American individuals. http://www.newsweek.com/id/209817
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 1, 09 6:39 PM
Fact versus fiction - the Republicans will stop at nothing in their attempt to defend the status quo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/02/fact-check-distortions-ri_n_249490.html
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Aug 2, 09 2:32 PM
As a health care professional for a total of thirty-eight years, most of them politically as a Registered Independent, I refuse to be frightened away from the reform of our health care in the United States. It has become a very big and very greedy business, to the detriment of our lives, health, personal finances and national economy.
If we review the recent past failures of savings and loans, banks and investment companies, mortgage failures; and the prevalence of greed- generating, massive ...more
By Jean (79), whb on Aug 3, 09 12:50 AM
DadDavid, you might improve your credibility a bit if you didn't rush here to post a link to the latest leftist claptrap on the Huffington site.

Few are really impressed by the stridency of the Huffington SocLibs or, for that matter, the single-minded iRightist mbecility of the Free Republic.

You have shown yourself to be an arthiculate man -- I'm more interested in what you might say than the Huffers and Puffers (Limbaugh).
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 3, 09 1:18 AM
If they stopped giving free health care, food and everything else to illegal immigrants Americans could have health care. Just go the SH Hospital and
and see all the illegal women with thier babies and their government issured
health cards Real or should I say legal Americans should be getting this. But
until Bishop and his cronies do something about all of these illegals nothing will be fixed
By J. Totta (106), Sag Harbor on Aug 3, 09 7:41 AM
Jean, I very much enjoyed your post.

The right refuses to listen to the facts on this issue and instead simply brush off indisputable data as "liberal claptrap". And then, of course, there are those who cannot help but blame the "illegals".

A friend of mine, an American citizen, recently lost her job and when her Cobra coverage ran out, she lost her insurance as well. She could not afford the $1,200.oo monthly premium for her family and, as she had been working for most ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Aug 3, 09 6:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Jean, I also enjoyed your post.

People nee to start looking at the real, and big picture. So many things need to change, top of the list, people being cared for. We've had this country for over 200 years, and we are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.

The way we are is how we honor them?

Not caring for every single soul, and giving one the best chance to achieve all that their life would allow them to?

Stop standing on the backs of others ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 3, 09 7:01 PM
1 member liked this comment