Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Answering Sen. Chris Buttars Health Care Questions: 11-15

(This one's in memory of Ted Kennedy, who would've cleaned Buttars' clock for dumbing down the discussion on the House Affordable Health Care Choices Act)

Day three of the Educating a State Senator series: Buttars' questions 11 through 15. Find answers to 1 through 5 here, and 6 through 10 here.

In fairness, this set of questions are more an ideological discussion, and therefore more reasonable than those manufactured by Sen. Buttars so far. That's not to say there isn't still a large amount of willing misdirection on the Senator's part, but a discussion over philosophical disagreements is much more reasonable than say, oh... "They'll ration your cancer treatment! #tcot #tcot #tcot!!!"

Getting to it...

Buttars: Page 280, Section 1151: Imposes penalties and fines on hospitals for “preventable” visits.

Our first response is "Yes...and?" But it's a bit more nuanced than that. Calling what is defined in this section a "penalty" is like someone saying they were "penalized" by their employer when they weren't payed for skipping a week of work. The design of this bill is to make health care more affordable and more efficient. Incentives for "first time fix" speak directly to that improved efficiency. During a townhall last week the president likened this to a mechanic: If you brought your car to a mechanic, they fixed it only to have it break again the next week, wouldn't you want to pay a lower rate for the second fix since if wasn't fixed correctly the first time?

Buttars: Page 298, Lines 9-11: Could impose penalties and fines on hospitals for re-admission after first treatment (fix on the first try or suffer the consequences).

Tsk Tsk, Senator. Trying to balloon your list by asking the same question twice? See answer above, and no extra conservative bonafide points for you.

Buttars: Page 341, Lines 3-9: Does this grant federal power to arbitrarily disqualify HMO’s, thereby forcing people into public health care at random?

The key to answering this question is to focus on your choice of the word "arbitrary." Not to sound like a broken record, Senator, but if you did actually read and re-read this bill ("5 times!") you would know there is nothing arbitrary in how these qualifications are defined. In fact, there is a clearly outlined set of rules for qualification/disqualification. It does give the secretary the ability to disqualify a medicare advantage plan if "if the Secretary has identified deficiencies in the plan’s compliance with rules for such plans under this part", but could hardly be called arbitrary if there are rules that are written out before hand (even if they are in governmentese).

Buttars: Page 149, Lines 16-24: Imposes an 8 percent payroll tax penalty for any employer that makes more than $400,000 and fails to offer to its employees the option to enroll in a qualified health care plan.

Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding! You got one! And without even the slightest twist of words or misdirection. Here's where we get to the ideological debate. Another goal of this bill is to decrease the number of uninsured. Reducing health care costs while providing such an incentive to employers to offer insurance would be a way to achieve this. If a company pays 10 people $40k a year, they would pay $3200 in taxes if they don't offer insurance. The money of course goes to the health insurance exchange trust fund which would help in funding the public option, so if the employer doesn't offer insurance, the still have to pay something for their employees health care (wasn't that the point of this employer based health care system anyways?). As example, take a look at what Mittens! (magical superhero to every Republican in Utah) did in Massachusetts. You'd be shocked to see that his health care plans for that state included such provisions to prevent "free riding employers." If employers know there's a public option, what incentive do they have in offering a private plan to their employees? It would only cost them more money. This makes the public option cost them money if they choose to not offer a private plan. A true free market capitalist like yourself would surely recognize that this clause will help the private sector remain competitive with a public option, thus avoiding an (begin hand-wringing here) evil socialist takeover of our entire way of living.

Buttars: Page 195: The Secretary will have full access to every citizen’s most private records.

And we're back to the fear-mongering so quickly! ID number, filing status, modified AGI, number of dependents, other information as prescribed by the secretary "as might indicate whether the taxpayer is eligible for such affordability credits." Summary: If you can reasonably afford insurance, of course they're going to need to know a little bit about you. We would stop short of calling this "your most private records," but there is that other information as prescribed by the secretary clause, so it could be read as open ended (if you're into that whole conspiracy theory thing). It's worth noting, to deflate your posturing here, that the data collected would be no different than what your current insurance provider (in your case, the taxpayer funded care you currently have entitlement to receive... for regular citizens, their private agent) collects about you for the exact same purposes, plus some (i.e. justification for dropping you for existing conditions, or raising your premium if you actually use your health insurance to obtain health care).

That's all for today. As stated, a much more reasonable set of questions here from the Senator, but all in all still cause for suspicion that either the Senator hasn't been anywhere near this bill, is incapable of understanding legislation, or is willingly attempting to misinform readers, as we've had little trouble finding his answers that have obviously perplexed him greatly. Any of those three is unacceptable from a person in his position, and we urge you to let him know.

We'll be back tomorrow with the final five (plus two bonus questions!) from the Senator. We appreciate all of you who've helped with the research so far, and encourage you all, again, to get this information out and combat the misleading and factually incorrect screeds posted by both Senators Chris Buttars and John Valentine on the front pages of The Senate Site.

Sources (outside of legal counsel):

1 comment:

  1. Well done, Jason and crew. I too find it hard to believe that Senator Buttars didn't know exactly what he was doing in posting this claptrap masquerading as legitimate inquiry. Shameful for a state senator.