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House Democrats Take Health Care Debate Behind Closed Doors

October 15, 2009

Washington, DC – Ways and Means Democrats today shut down the committee process, blocking Republicans from offering amendments to H.R. 3200, the House Democrats’ health care legislation.  In doing so, Democrats rammed through a letter to the Budget Committee that paves the way for health care to be considered under reconciliation – which requires only 51 votes for passage in the Senate as opposed to the normal 60 votes.

Given that the American people have expressed strong objections to H.R. 3200 in the last two-and-a-half months and the Congressional Budget Office has provided new estimates and analysis of the legislation, Republicans had sought to offer a handful of amendments.  Those included forcing Members of Congress to get their health care through the government plan, reducing the deficit $54 billion through medical liability lawsuit reform, and giving the American people 72 hours to read and analyze the health care bill and estimates of how much it will cost. 

“In shutting down the committee, Democrats have taken the health care bill from public view to be written behind closed doors in the Senate and behind closed doors in the House,” said Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI).  “Health care reform should be openly debated.  What are the Democrats afraid of?  It seems clear they don’t want the American people to know what is in this bill or to publicly defend some of its more troubling aspects.”

Below are ten amendments that Ways and Means Republicans intended to offer before debate was shut down on a party-line vote.

1. Forcing Members of Congress to Get Health Insurance through the Government-Run Exchange

The Republican amendment was similar to an amendment that was adopted by the Education and Labor Committee and would have inserted a new provision requiring any member of Congress and their dependents who enroll in health coverage to do so through the government-run plan.  

2. Giving the American People and their Representatives 72 Hours to Read and Analyze Health Care Bill Before a Vote

The Republican amendment would have allowed the American people and their Representatives 72 hours to read, analyze and understand the impact of proposed health care legislation before a final vote was taken on the measure.  

3. Allowing Seniors to Receive Facts about Democrat Proposed Medicare Benefit Cuts

The Republican amendment would have restored long-standing, Clinton-era policy protecting seniors’ right to know how legislation will impact, and in this case cut, their Medicare benefits.  Specifically, it would have repealed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) gag order prohibiting all Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans from communicating with their members about the proposed legislation.

4. Reducing Lawsuit Abuse and Defensive Medicine

The Republican amendment would have reduced health insurance premiums for all Americans, reduced the federal deficit and saved taxpayer $54 billion – all according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.  The amendment would require states first implement medical liability reform prior to instituting a government run insurance exchange.

5. Preventing Health Care from Increasing the Deficit

The Republican amendment would have provided that H.R. 3200 cannot increase the deficit over the 10-year period, the tenth year, or the next decade by CBO estimates. 

6. Protecting Taxpayer Dollars from Going to ACORN

Under the Democrats’ proposed H.R. 3200 a newly-created Health Czar is directed to contract with third parties to provide information and advice to those signing up for health insurance through the government-run health exchange.  The Republican amendment would have barred the Health Czar from contracting with ACORN.

7. Preventing Illegal Aliens from Receiving Taxpayer Funded Benefits

The Republican amendment closely followed language found in Senator Max Baucus’ (D-MT) health care bill to prevent illegal aliens from receiving taxpayer funded benefits.  It would have required verification of legal citizenship status through an individual’s name, Social Security Number, and date of birth – much like the Baucus bill.  The amendment added one additional safeguard: a requirement to show a government issued photo ID to ensure the applicant is who he/she says he/she is – much like people must do when getting on an airplane, driving a car, entering a government building, or using a credit card or writing a check. 

8. Preventing Private Coverage from Becoming More Expensive as a Result of the Government-Run Plan

The Republican amendment would have prohibited the Health and Human Services Secretary from basing payment rates for the government-run plan on Medicare rates.  Instead the government-run plan would be required to pay fair market rates, comprised of the average private plan rates on a county-by-county basis.  Experts have estimated that as drafted H.R. 3200 would result in $3,628 in added premiums costs for a privately-insured family of four.

9. Having CMS Inform Seniors’ about Medicare Premium Increases Resulting from H.R. 3200

The Republican amendment would have required the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to send a notice to all beneficiaries about the Medicare Part B and Part D premium increases that would result from enactment of H.R. 3200, the Democrats health care legislation.  CBO estimates that H.R. 3200 will increase Medicare Part D premiums by 20%.  CBO also predicts that Medicare Part B premiums will increase by $25 billion if this bill is signed into law. 

10. Reducing the Number of Years Americans Pay Higher Taxes but Get No Health Care Reform

The Republican amendment would have brought the so-called health care reforms in H.R. 3200 more in line with the timing of the massive tax hikes in the bill.  As currently drafted, the proposed legislation increases taxes begin in 2010 and 2011, yet the health coverage and market reforms don’t begin to phase-in until 2013, after the 2012 presidential election.  The amendment would have changed the effective dates for the rating reforms, exchange, government-run plan, affordability credits, individual and employer mandates, and small business tax credits from 2013 to 2012.