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I'm writing in response to Indiana Ninth District U.S. House Rep. Baron Hill's column appearing in The News Nov. 12 issue.
As a small-business owner and health-care provider, I've followed this issue with intense interest and attention, and I'm disappointed that Congressman Hill, who touts himself as a Blue Dog Democrat, would cave in to party ideology and then serve to salvage his own political survival by printing a few positive talking points to overshadow the absolute worse consequences of health-care reform under House Resolution 3962 to working and retired Americans.
While I could go on all day about why burdening our economy with this form of health-care legislation is fiscally foolish, I'll just highlight a few points on this issue that every Perry County voter should know as Hill's 2010 re-election bid approaches.
First, voters should know that existing case law mandates any health-care bill including a "public option," which is a government-run health-insurance program, must include illegal immigrants. The proof: In 1994 California voters passed Proposition 187, a ballot initiative to exclude illegal immigrants from using social services, Medicaid and public education.
However, the measure was overturned after being deemed unconstitutional to exclude residents and nonresidents from receiving social services, and to check the status of residency for the purpose of denying access to social services by the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Supreme Court refused to hear the case because the decisions of the lower courts were correct.
Second, the proposal to pay for this (now) estimated $1.2 trillion program includes $400 billion in cuts to Medicare. On Aug. 31 at Perry County Hospital, in my presence, Hill said these cuts would come from "savings by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse."
However, Dr. Eric Kleeman rhetorically asked, "Shouldn't you already be doing that?" and then added, "Why would the government wait to create a $1 trillion dollar program to start doing that, and if they couldn't find those savings, how could they pay for it without raising taxes?" Hill responded by saying, "We can't." So I thank him for his honesty in that response.
Therefore, unless the government finds these savings there are only three ways to make cuts to Medicare: 1. Reduce the range of services available to Medicare patients. 2. Reduce the payments to Medicare providers. 3. Both 1 and 2. But cuts must be made and since the Senate bill is still being debated, Hill is premature and irresponsible in announcing it will be "deficit neutral."
I challenged Hill to call any 10 primary care physicians and 10 specialty physicians to ask if they were taking new Medicare patients, and bet him "dimes to dollars" that he'd get most if not all "nays" because Medicare reimburses so poorly and is administered even more inefficiently.
Hill said he had "never heard of anyone not taking new Medicare patients," to which Dr. James Rogan added he hadn't taken a new Medicare patient in five years for those very reasons and at one point was so disgusted he considered dismissing all Medicare patients from his practice.
So I asked Hill, "then how does it increase access to health care by cutting Medicare and creating a public option that is administered and pays like Medicare if providers didn't want to accept it?"
Hill responded by saying that every time he ran for re-election his constituents always wanted something done about health care, and his elderly constituents always said, "Don't mess with my Medicare."
But Medicare recipients already know there will be no cost of living allowance increases for the next two years, and since business taxes and the cost of operating a business never go down, this also means reductions in profit margins for Medicare services, thereby representing losses to doctors and health-care business that choose to continue as Medicare providers. So some will not re-enroll for that very reason, which means fewer choices for Medicare patients.
So my question to Hill now is, "how is supporting $400 billion in cuts to Medicare and creating disincentives to re-enroll in Medicare providership not "messing with Medicare?"
Next, H.R 3962 mandates that Americans purchase health insurance or risk being fined $25,000 to $125,000, possibly including one to five years' imprisonment for not doing so.
I realize Hill's degree is in history, not jurisprudence, nor is he an attorney of constitutional law, but I'd like him to explain how the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to require Americans to purchase anything or be fined or go to jail for not doing so.
Moreover, since the bill proposes that proof of purchasing health insurance be reported on federal income tax returns and illegal immigrants do not file them, illegal immigrants would be insulated from these consequences but still eligible for health care under the public option.
How is this a good idea for working Americans, and how will it "help residents and businesses" as the title of Hill's column asserts?
Finally, perhaps Hill forgets that some of us can do math. $1 trillion is equal to 1,000 $1 billions, so a $1.2-trillion expenditure reducing the deficit by $109 billion is the mathematical equivalent of spending $120 for a $10.90 return in 10 years, which is 9 cents on the dollar, and would reduce the current $1.4 trillion deficit by about 8 cents on the dollar.
But at this administration's current rate of spending, the deficit is projected to be $9 trillion in 10 years, so that decreases the net return to about 1cent on the dollar.
Then, consider Medicare costs nine times more than the government projected at the time of its creation and that no government entitlement program has ever come in under budget.
I can't speak for all Perry Countians but I personally don't consider that a good investment in this, or any economy for that matter, so it's foolish to gamble with taxpayer dollars that it "might" work or "could" help.
In closing, I am not a Democrat or Republican. I am a Marine veteran with a service-connected disability operating a small health-care business struggling through this recession, and I am fed up with wealthy ideologues forcing a single party's liberal and socialistic agenda at the expense of working and retired taxpayers.
The town hall meetings, tea parties and public opinion polls clearly indicate the vast majority of Americans are against the cost of prioritizing health-care reform ahead of healing our ailing economy, and virtually no one wants to pay for the health care of illegal immigrants before working Americans.
But the attitude on the Hill, and with Mr. Hill, seems to be, "ignore the will of the people and go along with what the party thinks is best for the party's vision of America."
I am absolutely certain this is not what our forefathers had in mind when they drafted balance-of-government power into the Constitution, and I can only remain optimistic this is not the "change" for which Americans "hoped."