My account of last night’s, September 2, 2009, Town Hall Meeting with Second District Congressman Joe Courtney continues below. For those interested in a shorter summary than my many part tome may chose to the account in the New London DAY or the Norwich Bulletin.
We are picking up the questioning with the seventh question of the night.
7. The questioner read from a letter in the New London DAY that basically stated that true conservative was a supporter for health care reform, expecially the public option since it was good for the ‘general welfare’ and a priority in National Security. Did Courtney have any comment?
Courtney – Everyone needs to understand that the National Health Care Exchange in the bill (HR3200) is not like the National Health System in Great Britain.
8. This questioner spoke with an obvious accent – Why is the United States so far behind the rest of the world. Germany had a national health care system in 1883 under the Kaisers. Why can’t US be more like Europe? (At this point there were shouts from the crowd to go back to Europe). When I visit relatives in Germany, all my health care problems are taken care of without question or cost.
Courtney – The Bill is not a national health system or a single payer system. There is need to reform what is broken and insure all persons.
9. People don’t trust the government. Congresspersons will not take the same insurance as the rest of us. Your statement that the amendment to the bill to encourage Congresspersons to take the coverage provided by the Public Option was a sense of congress, not real legislation.
Courtney – That is correct that a “Sense of Congress” resolution is not legally binding. The Senate Bill as similar words that do have the force of law. The current Congressional Plan costs $8,000 per year. Although I will not take that plan, most Congresspersons will keep their plan.
10. There are 50 million uninsured in the land. I am willing to pay my fair share, but what is that fair share?
Courtney – The Bill will work to keep costs down by permitting the government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare Part D. This will help eliminate the ‘Donut Hole’ in the current Part D coverage. This is one of the fixes in HR3200.
11. How much does US spend on Health Care per year and how do we compare with the rest of the world?
Courtney – U. S. spends 16% of Gross Domestic Product d(GDP) on Health care. Regarding the outcome, in some areas, like cancer treatments, our system is better but other preventable illnesses do not fair as well. We have a crisis in lack of General Practioners and Pediatricians. The Part C of HR3200 provides incentives to improve this situation.
12. There is insufficient transparency in this bill. What will keep Congress from gutting the bill in the future? Will you pledge to defeat this bill if your constituents are opposed to it?
Courtney – Last SEP – OCT I showed my independence by voting against the first bank bailout (TARP). Some people in this room think I was wrong to do this, but after reading the bill, that is what I beleived was necessary. On my Website, I try to keep people informed of the issues. I treat this job seriously. I will do what I think is right regardless of a party issue. Each year the veterans associations come in to lobby for changes in the VA plan or Tricare. There is a constant request for changes to bring the laws up to date wiht the culture. This system will out last us all.
13. You have done a good job so far (some grumbling from the crowd). I looked up the public option and could not get past How will we pay for this bill? In 2033 thirty three percent income will go into health care. It would be nice to please everyone but how can we pay for it?
Courtney – The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is the final scorekeeper. It will determine the projections and the changes in tax policy (Some boos when taxes were mentioned). For the ten year period the cost is $1 trillion. We will get one half the costs from existing savings (A number of boos and shouts of “liar, Liar”.) The overpayment of Medicare advantage programs will be eliminated saving $160 billion. There will be an increase in taxes for upper income (over $350,000). The final bill will be deficit neutral.
14. Due to the impact of health care costs on small business, either too small to get affordable coverage or just not able to afford coverage, they hinder business growth. What is impact on small businesses and their ability to create jobs?
Courtney – In 2013 the national purchasing exchange will increase the ‘effective pool’ of workers for small business. There is a small business tax credit to assist the small business. The system will be voluntary and should help spread out the health care costs. Competition is a huge problem and the bill will encourage more competition.
There were more shouts and groans at this answer.
This concludes Part II. I will pick up with Part 3 later this afternoon.