Category Archives: Joe Courtney

Audio: Courtney Telephone Town Hall

This is a nice post to do today, when it seems like the debate over health care is starting to shift into the legislative endgame.

Rep. Joe Courtney held a telephone town hall on health care on August 24th. According to what Brian Farber, Deputy Chief of Staff/Communications Director for Rep. Courtney, said near the end of the call, about 3,500 residents listened in.

Click here to listen to the full conversation.

The questions, which were chosen by Courtney’s staff, reflect a wide range of strong concerns, and I think it led to a good discussion of some of the important issues surrounding health care reform. I wasn’t really sold on the idea of a telephone town hall at first, but the discussion that resulted here seems to suggest that maybe it works. It sounds much like a typical health care town hall, but without the grandstanding and charged emotional atmosphere. I like that.

Here’s a list of the questions (my paraphrases), which were asked by people from all over the district:

1. Is a public option a litmus test?

2. Why should people who don’t smoke, are obese or engage in unhealthy behaviors foot the bill for those who do?

3. How will we be able to continue Medicare coverage (it’s more complicated than that)?

4. The high cost of the bill. How can the bill be serious about containing costs without malpractice/tort reform?

5. Will illegal aliens be covered?

6. Is Medicare Advantage being abolished?

7. Fears over losing world-class facilities, and when will Congress fix broken programs for veterans and seniors? How can we insure a new set of people?

8. With more people having access to health care, who will provide it given a shortage of nurses and doctors?

9. Getting in debt and spending so much money makes the country unsafe. Government waste. Also, is there anything included I don’t want, will I have to pay for abortions?

10. You are awesome. Also, will there be caps on medical providers, to help contain costs?

11. Business and profit have no place in providing health care. What about removing the profit-driven aspect of the system?

Congressman Courtney gave what I thought were interesting and thorough answers for the most part. The questions themselves were certainly not softballs (except for possibly the last one), and Courtney was able to refer to specific sections of the bill currently under consideration to address many of the concerns expressed here. It seems like the major concern really was cost.

If you are interested in exploring some of the issues surrounding this huge debate, give the entire thing a listen. It’s just shy of an hour in length.

Courtney Town Hall – Part IV

Here are the final questions from the Town Hall Meeting held by Second District Congressman Joe Courtney.

22. You haven’t taken my phone calls, your office has not responded to my questions so I came here in person. I am a small business owner. My standards are “profit and simplicity” (Loud cheers from audience). Looking at a 1016 page bill I find no simplicity. I can’t read it and understand it when it continually refers to “Section X, paragraph (3), line 52. This bill is too complicated. If you are so committed to health care, why not take one issue at a time so that issue is easily understood. Fight on my behalf, take one issue at a time, not full blown health care.
Courtney – I am on the Armed Services Committee and ship building is a big deal in my district. The Defense Bill is a ‘Hugh document” I wish you could put the U.S. Code changes on one page but the change has to refer to the previous law that is being changed. It is a tough challenge to the committee but the HR3200 bill will help small business by allowing them to join pools.

23. Health Care is only for those who can afford it. What safeguards exist to prevent companies from dropping health care coverage for employees when this bill becomes law?
Courtney – There are penalties for companies that “dump” employees. They will have to pay an additional tax. On the other hand, companies like Pitney Bowes that has a progressive welliness plan for employees are able to keep their plans unimpeded.

24. I don’t understand why people are against profit. This bill does not include any tort reform. I did not go to work for anyone but self and family.
Courtney – The bill is based on an employer based health care system. The focus of Section A is on this aspect of the health care system. Regarding tort reform, the Congressional Budget Office study shows that tort reform does not save money for the Health Care System. Expenses are the same or greater in states like Texas, who has strict tort caps, as in other states, without these caps. (Audience booing and shouting during this answer).

25. Will there be mental health parity in this bill?
Courtney – This is a key part of the bill. Mental Health parity was signed into law by President Bush about two years ago and this bill preserves that aspect of costs.

26. Why does the health care have to be government controlled? Medicine is personal. We may need reform but we don’t need government control.
Courtney – Right now the Insurance Companies have panels to approve your coverage. There are different forms for different companies. This is a great burden on doctors, hospitals, and other providers. The bill will establish a standard form. This, in its self, will keep costs down.

27. There are other studies that show tort reform will provide significant savings. There should be tort reform.
Courtney – no comment since time was running out.

28. Insurance companies don’t deny care. (Loud sounds of disagreement with this statement). All you have to do is go to the hospital and get the service and then pay for it your self. The bill will ration care and deny care unlike the current situation.
Courtney – There is no rationing in the bill. There are no “death panels” in the bill. There is no requirement to take action at end of life, the bill merely pays the doctor for his time when this discussion occurs. Currently, the discussion occurs, but the doctor does not get paid.

This was the last question. I found out later that Congressman Courtney then went to the high school cafeteria and talked with another group of people who were not able to get into the auditorium. This meeting lasted around forty minutes. According to a remark in the comment section of the New London DAY on line article, this session was not as volatile as the auditorium and everyone asked and answered questions politely.

Despite some comments attached to both the DAY and the NORWICH BULLETIN Articles, I believe that the crowd was evenly divided in the auditorium. After the meeting, one person commented that she thought the anti health care reform persons were rude and disrespectful but I thought the meeting was fairly tame when compared to some of the meetings seen on TV.

I hope the reader found these four posts useful in understanding the Health Care reform proposal.l

Courtney Town Hall – Part III

Continuing the saga of last night’s, September 2, 2009, Town Hall Meeting held by Second District Congressman Joe Courtney.

15. The collection of people in this hall is less than one percent of a voting precinct. Please don’t let a skewed audience swing your vote. (Shouts and rumblings from the audience). A small portion of the population already has a public option for health care – Why are veterans, children and seniors so special? How can we help get health care for everyone? (more boos and grumblings along with calls for quiet)
Courtney – Expressing different points of view is what this forum is all about. There is a public option in the bill After an initial infusion of public funds, the public option will have to compete with the insurance companies and if providers do not join the public option network, it will not succeed. We will continue to work to get the best model of health care possible passed in Congress.

16. Since the TARP legislation passed the government is a little on the wild side. The President is printing dollars like they were going out of style. Everyone should be concerned. How are we going to pay for this? People should get jobs and save their money to pay for Health Care. No one has seen the finished product for this bill. We need to get the country back and get rid of Pelosi and Barney Frank.
Courtney – No comment and nodded to the microphone holder to go for the next question. There was a little back and forth rumbling from the audience.

17. I can’t sleep since Obama is President. He has stated that you cannot rely on the military. He wants to establish a civilian “National Security Force”. Do you support this?
Courtney – The Armed Forces must defend the country but the “Posse Comitatus” law prevents the use of military for domestic enforcement. I am not familar with the comment but would be opposed to a separate internal security force. (During this response, it was difficult to hear the Courtney response due to the shouting and grumbling by some of the audience.)
Personal Note – I was not familar with this quote by President Obama so I did a search prior to writing this blog. It turns out that in July 2008 during the campaign, President Obama was addressing a group regarding voluntary service to the country such as Americorps and the Peace Corps. He stated that National Security was not just the responsiblity of the military and that civilian service to the country was just as important and proposed a National Service Corp to provide volunteer services. There are some web sites that have taken this comment to mean that Obama wants to establish an armed Internal Security Force – Not the intent of the speach he delivered at all.

18. What is the most important part of the Bill? Lots of mumbling from audience.
Courtney – after a moment of hesitation – Part A that deals with Insurance Reform is the most important part of the bill. Introducing these reforms will reduce the number of bankruptcies due medical care costs.

19. Please support the Public Option. It is an important part of the reform of health care.
Courtney – No comment. On to next question.

20. Health Care needs reform but there is too much of a rush. What will you do if directed to support a single payer option plan by House Leadership?
Courtney – Chance for a single payer plan in the current Congress is less than zero. A public option is the best compromise but do not know just what will be in the final bill. (Much noise from audience and calls of “Liar, Liar.”. Noise made it difficult for Courtney to answer the questions.

21. The US is only wealthy country that 1) does not insure all persons; 2) is twice as expensive as Europe; 3) Standing is 38th in the world; 4) Deaths are highest of all developed countries with a Health Care System. Much Noise from the audience.
Courtney – No comment. Moved on to the next question.

Will pick up with next question later this evening in the Final installment (Town Hall -Part IV).

Courtney Town Hall Part II

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.

Courtney Town Hall Part I

I attended the Town Hall Meeting that Second District Congressman Joe Courtney held at Montville High School tonight, September 2, 2009. Because of the length of the Town Hall Meeting and the over twenty questions asked, I am splitting the report into two or more posts, one tonight and the others throughout the day tomorrow.

On arrival an hour before the beginning of the Meeting there were two rows of demonstrators outside of the high school. One carrying signs in favor of Health Care Reform and the other Against Health Care Reform for various reasons (reading the signs). There was a long line in the hallway before the auditorium and it took twenty minutes to get into the hall. The Auditorium seats 500 persons and by the start of the Meeting at 6:30 PM, there were no empty seats. The Fire Marshal and Montville Constables insured there were no persons standing and no signs or posters in the hall. If a person left the auditorium, another person was let in to take their place so more than the five hundred initial folks attended some portion of the Town Hall. Congressman Courtney had some prepared flip charts in front but they were not readable in the back of the auditorium.

The Congressman got a strong round of applause and chants of “Joe, Joe, Joe” when he entered the room and was introduced by another Joe, the Mayor of Montville. Courtney had no opening statement except to thank the Mayor for the hospitality of the High School and immediately started with the questions. This Start would play into a question later about why the Town Hall Meeting did not start with the Pledge of Allegiance.

My intention is to paraphrase the question as if I was asking the question and then give the Congressman’s answer. Since not all questioners identified themselves, I will not identify the questioner.

1. Congress has its own retirement plan, Social Security is bankrupt, corruption is widespread, why do the Democrats think that anyone would trust the government to run a health care plan?
Some rumbling from the audience – Courtney – People opposed to health care are just as patriotic as those in favor. I don’t take the Congressional Health Plan because all Americans are not insured. I promised that when I was elected and I plan to keep that promise. Health Care is not a reality for all Americans and everyone should be able to get healthcare.

2. Why should there be a ‘Public Option’ to encourage competition when it was Congress that made competition in the health care system illegal?
Courtney – There are already ‘public options’ for health care. Tricare for the Active Duty Military, VA Health Care, and Medicare for the Seniors. In my previous Town Hall Meetings these groups are happy with their stable health care system benefits. Medicare is not perfect but no one would dare to repeal Medicare today.

3. The Constitution states that Congress should promote the “General Welfare.” Health Care is a fundamental right (some noise from the crowd). Congressman, is Health Care a Right or a Privilege?
Courtney – It is a Right (Loud grumbling from the crowd followed by applause – about equal grumbles and applause) No where in the Constitution does it say that the Military should get health care. Congress is to provide for the General Welfare and Health Care is part of that General Welfare.

4. I am an immigrant from England and I have experienced the waits and poor doctor service from the English National Health System. I feel that the opposition in Congress has been shut out from the drafting of the bill. the Public Option is an intrusion and, if passed, will ruin the best health care system in the world, (Some grumbling from the crowd and then some applause- Again about fifty fifty). Nothing in HR3200 improves the Health Care System. It costs a trillion dollars. Don’t rush. Use incremental, affordable steps to improve health care. Start with Tort Reform, then go to permitting across state lines plans. Why the rush to pass a bill. Work together and permit individual choice.
Courtney – I am a member of the Education and Health Committee. The bill we passed had many republican amendments. Republicans “don’t bite.” The system proposed by the bill is not like the National Health System of Great Britain because it starts with private insurance companies. The bill is not a single payer or a National Health System. If you look at the Table of Contents, there are three sections to the bill – A. Insurance Reform; B – Improving Medicaid and Medicare; C – Other reforms such as encouraging more medical students to become family practice physicians or pediatritions. In Section 162 for example, the Insurance Companies will not longer be able to practice recession – the cancelling of a policy after a person gets sick or injured.

5. I looked on line for Health Care plans available in Connecticut and found 72 choices, when I changed my zip code to Mass. there was only eight different plans, all from the same company that was both insurer and provider. The cheapest plan was $400 per month compared to $196 per month in Connecticut. How are you going to prevent the National Health Care plan from having the same results as in Mass. Will you vote for the plan even if the majority present here are against the plan (More cheers from the crowd – no corresponding grumbles this time).
Courtney – I know a 50 year old small business person in New London who has a preexisting and chronic illness. It costs him $2600 per month for insurance. With the National Exchange established by the HR3200 the cost of health care for this individual and others like him will decrease.

6. I am disappointed at all of the people that are sounding so negative. Health Care is a right. Where is the concern for the 47 million uninsured persons. Who can predict when they might be in the same situation. This problem is unknown in Europe. When is this country going to catch up with other countries.

Thats all for tonight. More to Come tomorrow.

Courtney Gets Another Republican Challenger

According to today’s New London DAY Daria Novak, a business person from Madison, CT is planning to challenge for the Republican nomination for 2nd District Congressperson. She joins Glastonbury Republican Matthew Daly on the hustings. Neither of these Republican candidates have much, if any, name recognition in Eastern Connecticut so it will be an up hill battle. I guess Congressman Courtney will not run unopposed in November 2010.

Courtney Speaks on Health Care

Rep. Joe Courtney makes a strong argument for a public option in his opening remarks on health care reform in the House Education and Labor committee. Courtney reminds those members of Congress who are against government-run health care that they all benefit from just that.

I think this is one of the better speeches I’ve seen Rep. Courtney give.