Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Answering Sen. Chris Buttars Health Care Questions: 6-10

Day two of our "educate a state senator" series, answering questions 1 through 6 of Sen. Chris Buttars' health care concerns about the House Affordable Health Care Choices Act he picked up -- in a rare moment of gullibility? -- from a chain email. Those just joining in, stop here for a full recap of why we've taking on this (not so daunting, afterall) task, and here for answers to questions 1 through 5. Thanks again to all those -- volunteer and professional -- dedicating their time to better inform an elected state official.

Now, more answers for Senator Buttars...

Buttars: Page 58, Lines 11-13: Will everyone be issued a government health care ID? Will it outline limitations of services we can receive?

Blatant fear-mongering (and not the best we've seen, to be honest). You really have to go all the way back to the 1930's, about the time the Senator was applying for college, for this one. Ah, the glorious days of fighting along-side Hoover, eh, Senator? The answer to the first question is yes, those who choose the public option would receive an ID card, of sorts. The answer to the second question is "Are you an idiot?" Joking, Senator, but please take a moment and open your wallet. Do you see there the card that was issued to you when you accept the taxpayer funded health insurance you are gifted by your "service"? Ah, we thought so. This is what will be issued to public option users pursuant to this section of the bill, and also what every private insurance company does now, and will continue to do. See, it's this or the doctor or hospital just takes your word for what coverage you have, or you carry a large stack of papers with you everywhere you go in case of an accident. And (here's the scary party for a man of your caliber) there will be a bar code on the back! Oh the TYRANNY!!!

Buttars: Page 317, Line 13-20: Prohibits doctors from purchasing or investing in health care facilities from the point of plan implementation.

Kudos, Senator (or to the person who wrote the chain email you picked these from). You got one right, for the most part. The practice is not outright prohibited in this section, but made much more difficult to do (i.e. a person wishing to do so would have to apply for an exemption and show justified safety nets against abuse). The reasoning is pretty straight forward: If you could get paid twice for something, might there not be incentive for you to abuse that loophole? If you are both a physician and an investor in the facility you practice in, might there not be incentive for you to direct a patient to your facility, even if it's not in their best interest, to double dip? The risk is there, at least. But again, it's not a blanket prohibition. There is an exemption procedure for doctors and investors, and it "provide[s] persons and entities in the community in which the hospital applying for an exception is located with the opportunity to provide input with respect to the application" (that's from the bill you "read 5 times," in case you didn't recognize it).

Buttars: Page 91, Lines 4-7: Mandates that health care providers pay for interpreters for illegal aliens.

Gasp! If it were true. But alas, Senator, your hatred clouds your vision, as the Jedi say. Complete misread. The bill does require "culturally and linguistically appropriate communication and health services", but doesn't mandate that they only be used for illegal immigrants. Believe it or not, Senator, there are legal citizens of the united states who's primary language isn't English, and in times of medical need would need to be able to communicate in their own language. This does run contrary to the theory held by some (cough, cough) that if someone looks like an illegal immigrant then they most certainly are an illegal immigrant. But that theory is of course not true (and arguably pretty racist).

Buttars: Page 170, Lines 1-3: Stipulates that all nonresident aliens are exempt from the tax penalty presented in this chapter. Does that mean nonresident aliens will pay nothing for their health care?

Again, we have to question the Senator's reading or understanding of the bill (we're really beginning to believe he did neither). While the section listed does exclude nonresident aliens (read - not illegal aliens, just nonresident aliens -- those holding the questionable theory of everything brown stated in the previous section should look up the difference) from the tax penalty, that doesn't say anything about how they'll pay for their health care. It simply gets them out of the 2.5% income tax penalty for not having insurance. So how do they pay for their health care? The same way everyone else who is exempt for other reasons (religious belief, cons. objector, etc.) or those who will pay the 2.5% penalty will: out of their own pockets. Again, a not so subtle attempt to parlay misinformation into fear-mongering here by the Senator.

Buttars: Page 272, Section 1145: Cancer treatment rationed “as determined appropriate by the Secretary.”

Not. Even. Close. This section doesn't even veer near a reference to rationing of any kind. What it says, in a nutshell, is that cancer treatment facilities are more costly and have greater expenses than hospitals that don't offer such treatment, and therefore payout rates can be adjusted. Instead of rationing, it's actually taking higher cost cancer treatment and paying for it, and allowing medicare to do the same. We'll even post the section of the bill (as can't shake this suspicion you haven't seen it yet) so that others can see the clarity of this section, and ask themselves "well, how did a state legislator come to such an absurd and chain email induced conclusion?" From the bill:

"‘‘(A) STUDY.—The Secretary shall conduct a study to determine if, under the system under this subsection, costs incurred by hospitals described in section 1886(d)(1)(B)(v) with respect to ambulatory payment classification groups exceed those costs incurred by other hospitals furnishing services under this subsection (as determined appropriate by the Secretary). ‘‘(B) AUTHORIZATION OF ADJUSTMENT.— Insofar as the Secretary determines under subparagraph (A) that costs incurred by hospitals described in section 1886(d)(1)(B)(v) exceed those costs incurred by other hospitals furnishing services under this subsection, the Secretary shall provide for an appropriate adjustment under paragraph (2)(E) to reflect those higher costs effective for services furnished on or after January 1, 2011.’’"
No talk of rationing, just "govermentese" for paying for more costly cancer treatment. We cannot explain, by any stretch of the imagination, how the Senator came to the conclusion he did.

All in all, Senator Buttars, we are inching -- involuntarily -- to a dire conclusion. One of three things is going on here, and we'll give it the rest of the week before we make the determination. You have either never been with 5 feet of this bill and are therefore dishonest in claiming to have "read and re-read" it "5 times," OR you are inept, incapable of reading legislation to a point of understanding, and should remove yourself from office post haste, OR you are intentionally pushing fallacies and bad information out into the public sphere for possible assimilation, with the assumption that your constituents and the public at large are just gullible enough that they'll suck it up.

We'll leave it to readers to decide (perhaps we'll have a vote).

Until tomorrow -- Questions 11 - 15 -- please pass this information around. Sens. Valentine and Buttars have abused a trusted hub for information in spreading, via The Senate Site, blatant distortions, and unsubstantiated claims about what this bill does or does not say.

We can fight them, because we still have our integrity.

Spread the word.

Sources (outside of legal consulting):

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