Monday, August 24, 2009

Answering Sen. Chris Buttars Health Care Questions: 1-5

For those just tuning in (full recap here), Sen. Chris Buttars has questions about the House Affordable Health Care Choices Act he lifted from chain emails and blogs like this and posted at The Senate Site for discussion. As we've dug into the bill to help get answers for the confused Senator, it's become increasingly apparent that Buttars, and Valentine before him, either know exactly what they are doing, and wish to suck the intelligence from the debate, or are two of the most inept representatives on Utah's hill. You decide.

None of these answers were difficult to find for our small band of volunteers and bloggers.

Buttars: Page 124, Lines 24-25: Does this ban anyone from suing the federal government? And does it ban the entire judicial system from hearing cases on the legitimacy of the proposed plan?

No. It doesn't ban someone from suing the federal government, or ban the judicial system from hearing cases on the proposed plan. It bans anyone from suing the government over the payment rates set in the public option (read the bill again senator, if you'd seen the context of the lines you questioned you would have been able to see the answer to that one). If your doctor doesn't like the rates set by the public option, they don't have to accept it, and can opt out (my, doesn't this sound like Medicare?). If you don't like that your doctor doesn't accept it, you can also opt out of the public option and find different insurance. If the insurance industry doesn't like the rates because the public option pays too much, they'd better find a way to compete, because they can't sue because of the section you've mentioned. Now before you and Valentine come out guns a-blazing with the free market talk, remember, private insurance companies are also exempt from these types of antitrust lawsuits due to the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 (sadly it too is written in governmentese), not this bill.

Buttars: Are all federal employees exempt from the proposed national health care program(s)?

You provide no page reference on this one, and it's not addressed specifically in the bill (that we could find), so we'll assume it's lifted straight from the chain emails and wingnut websites Eagle Forum sent you. Theoretically they wouldn't fall under the public option, since they (like you) already have excellent insurance from their government jobs. That doesn't preclude them (or you) from falling under the public option at some point, if their benefits planner decides the public option is better than what is offered by private insurance companies. The difference between federal employees and yourself is that you've now 'served' long enough to get tax payer funded insurance from the state of Utah for life, they only get it until they're no longer employed by the federal government.

Buttars: Pages 272 & 452: The entire bill is loaded with the comment, “As determined appropriate by the Secretary.” What does this mean?

Two pages is "loaded"? But you're right, it does come up often. As it does in homeland security laws, department of defense laws, agricultural laws (We'll stop now because we don't want to have to type out the entire cabinet to make an example). See, Senator, when you put laws in place that have interaction with a particular federal department (HHS) then a lot of the discretionary decisions get placed on the secretary in charge of that cabinet and the commissions or committees below them. We're a bit confused as to why we have to explain this to you, since Utah government functions in much the same way (i.e. "as determined by the division head" or "the division head may"... you cannot possibly be unfamiliar with these phrases).

Buttars: Page 429, Lines 10-11: In addition to almost everything being subject to the Secretary’s approval, the words the “Secretary may” are also peppered throughout the bill. What does this mean?

See answer to number 3. But kudos for sneaking this redundancy in to further insight irrational fear, and earn extra conservative bonafide points.

Buttars: Page 226, Lines 12-22: An example of “governmentese.”

This one we'll give you, even though it wasn't really a question. We have no experience reading legislation (like, say...a STATE SENATOR would) and we were still able to sort this section out without too much trouble, but it was difficult in the way that footnotes and appendixes in books without pictures can be confusing. Not being a state senators, we can only infer that they are laying out specifics of how a certain section of the bill is to be applied for different types of health providers, and also changing the wording of a previous law so that it too references the same section, almost like they want things consistent. The fact of the matter is that's how laws are written, and we know that you know Utah legislation is no different, nor your average city council's legislative process, or youth council, for that matter. If you'd like we could petition congress for you to see about getting these bills written in crayon and adding pretty pictures, but that would really only make the bill longer, which is something we know you're against already.

That wraps up the first 5 of Buttars 20 questions. Our advice to the Senator(s) based on the experience so far? You've got to read the context of the sections the chain emails tell you to be upset about! It's important to understanding.

We'll be back tomorrow with the next 5. Until then, help us educate a Senator, and counter the Valentine/Buttars misinformation campaign by passing the answers above on to family and friends who may be getting the same chain emails as Chris Buttars.

Keep the debate honest.

Sources (outside of legal consulting):


  1. Thanks to all of you for doing this. I beginning to believe either the Senator is fibbing about having read it 5 times, or the Senator isn't very bright if he read it five times and didn't see the answers to the questions he reportedly has.

  2. If your response doesn't make the front page of The Senate Site as the questions did, then we know they are interested in mouthpiecining misinformation rather than honest discussion. I many reasons for as a conservative to oppose this bill, but the fallacies Valentine and Buttars are repeating only undermine our arguments and The Senate Site has an obligation to uphold the discussion they claim to be fostering by allowing the Senators questions to appear in the first place.

  3. Thanks for this. Your answers clarify things immensely.