Thursday, January 20, 2011

Healthcare Is For Members Only, Members Of Congress That Is


Though November saw a national GOP tsunami, one Blue America-endorsed candidate who did relatively well, Ed Potosnak (above), is getting ready to run again in 2012. In 2008, the DCCC-financed Democrat running in New Jersey's 7th CD won 42% of the vote with heavy DCCC spending (as well as $2,621,407 of her own funds, against Lance's $1,369,698)-- and with a 51-48% margin of Obama over McCain. In November, and without one nickel spent by the DCCC, Ed drew virtually the same percentage of the voters, 41%. Lance spent the same $1.3 million he had in 2008 but Ed spent one million dollars less ($346,777). I might add that you can contribute to Ed's campaign at the new ActBlue page just set up by Blue America, Americans for America PAC, and Daily Kos to raise funds to run ads against conservative hypocrites, like Lance, who voted to repeal health care for their constituents while keeping their own taxpayer subsidized health plans. I asked Ed what he thinks about his once and future opponent, Rep. Leonard Lance signing up for taxpayer-susidized congressional health insurance for himself and his family while voting yesterday to deny similar insurance to his own constituents, the taxpayers who subsidize his health insurance. (Note: Lance also voted against an amendment that would have forced Members of Congress to disclose whether or not they are taking subsidized healthcare for themselves.)

Before we get to Ed's response, I want to point out that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a study this week that shows the impact of repealing the health care reform law specifically on New Jersey's 7th CD. The findings, in short, showed that the repeal Lance voted for yesterday would have significant consequences on the district by:

* Allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to 120,000 to 303,000 individuals, including 9,000 to 39,000 children, with pre-existing conditions.

* Rescinding consumer protections for 508,000 individuals who have health insurance through their employer or the market for private insurance.

* Eliminating health care tax credits for up to 18,200 small businesses and 74,000 families. ? Increasing prescription drug costs for 8,100 seniors who hit the Part D drug “donut hole” and denying new preventive care benefits to 96,000 seniors.

* Increasing the costs of early retiree coverage for up to 9,700 early retirees.

* Eliminating new health care coverage options for 1,700 uninsured young adults.

* Increasing the costs to hospitals of providing uncompensated care by $17 million annually.

Even before this material was released, Ed was happy to share his own view on GOP repeal with which he strongly disagrees.
With the election of Mr. Boehner as Speaker and the ushering in of the new Republican led House, the rhetoric about repealing healthcare picked up. Their supporters are holding their feet to the fire to make good on campaign promises to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We must work together to ensure repeal efforts don't succeed. I support the new healthcare law because, among other things, I strongly believe every American should have access to the same healthcare Members of Congress are given.

Like many, I am extremely frustrated by the vitriol and propaganda used to compel Americans to support repealing the healthcare overhaul. Republicans have inextricably linked phrases like “government takeover,” “socialized medicine,” and now the “Job-Killing Health-Care Law” to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which they often refer to as “Obamacare.”

What is perhaps most disappointing is the same Congressional Republicans who are advocating for full repeal of PPACA are also receiving taxpayer-funded healthcare. During my ’10 Congressional Campaign my opponent, Congressman Lance, ran on repealing healthcare. What Mr. Lance wasn’t saying is that he has enjoyed taxpayer-funded healthcare for decades as a state legislator, receiving government subsidized full-time benefits for a part-time job and again in Congress he took the generous Congressional healthcare. His efforts to repeal PPACA will serve to deny Americans access to the healthcare of which he takes advantage.

The healthcare these Members of Congress are exploiting is the very same healthcare the law aims to allow every American to purchase through the healthcare exchange. Every Representative that voted to support repeal should give up her or his government provided, taxpayer funded, healthcare. I am doubtful they will because apparently the PPACA repealers believe healthcare is for “Members Only.” Speaker Boehner and his caucus are intent on denying each of us access to the great insurance they get.

I have experienced the failings of our current system. I have gone without healthcare, and it is terrifying and for some deadly. There is a cloud that hangs over your head as you go about even simple daily activities, exercising extreme caution with each step you make fearing that you may twist your ankle at any moment and end up with a mountain of bills. The employer-based healthcare system is broken, especially for the millions who work in companies that do not offer insurance and those out of work. My mother had to take a second job at night, loading boxes onto a UPS truck, so that I could get healthcare insurance because her daytime job didn’t offer healthcare. I am extremely grateful for her sacrifice, but a person should not be forced into a job because of healthcare concerns.

Our nation would be much more productive if people were able to work in a job they love, without the risk of losing healthcare. There are not many people who wish to go without health insurance; far too many go without because they lack access or are unable to pay the high cost. If America is going to remain competitive in the global economy it is critical we ensure every American has access to affordable, high quality, healthcare. Since 2000, employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have more than doubled, increasing three times faster than wages. PPACA will reign in skyrocketing premiums, allowing millions of the uninsured to finally afford healthcare. This is another reason why I support PPACA and why I am adamantly opposed to repeal.

Rather than vote on real reforms, Republicans chose to force a “symbolic vote” yesterday to repeal PPACA. I call this an emblematic vote. It is emblematic of how Congress is failing Americans-- it was staged political theater, when what we need are solutions. What our families and businesses need is a healthy discourse to meet the challenges facing our country. Our working families need Congress to improve our economy and ensure America remains competitive, not a stage production entitled “Repealing the Job-Killing Health-Care Law Act.”

It sickens me to think of the lives that will be lost if this law is repealed as people are kicked off insurance for having preexisting conditions or reaching lifetime limits. Republican efforts to repeal this bill are also creating great uncertainty for individuals and businesses by taking away tax credits and opportunities to pool together to negotiate lower rates. Repeal will mean tens of millions will once again not have access to affordable, high quality healthcare.

The bottom line is that every American should have access to the healthcare insurance Members of Congress take advantage of. Instead of taking steps to further ensure every American has access to their insurance, House Republicans are looking to dismantle protections that have taken decades to accomplish. This is not about which party gets to put a feather in their cap or even if President Obama is to be reelected. It is about real people whose lives depend on Congress doing the right thing. House Republicans are not doing the right thing by staging this repeal vote, taking precious legislative time away from creating jobs and improving our economy.

While the PPACA fell short on some of my expectations, like establishing real competition, I remain supportive of many of the provisions in PPACA, including ending pre-existing condition discrimination, tax credits for small businesses, and the insurance exchange. Of course this Congress, and those to come, have an opportunity to enhance PPACA, to further improve the physical and mental health of Americans. The healthcare bill should not be repealed. In addition to denying Americans access to Congressional healthcare, the Republican majority’s efforts to repeal this law will also deny prescriptions to seniors in the donut hole and kick children off their parents’ policy.

America cannot wait decades to enact new healthcare reforms. We need to stand together against repeal to ensure every American has access to the healthcare insurance Members of Congress get. Additionally, we need to work together to provide more stability and security for Americans who currently have health insurance and expand their options by offering a larger selection of quality, affordable choices. I am committed to reducing the cost of health care for families, businesses, and the government by increasing competition and establishing insurance pools for small businesses and individuals. Businesses, individuals, and the government must work together to take responsibility for health care and rebuff Republican efforts to repeal this critical piece of legislation.

As part of the debate on the House floor this week, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), embraced the same positions Ed and all progressive Democrats have taken: "When fully implemented, more than 32 million additional Americans will have access to health care coverage. This translates into saving the lives of approximately 45,000 Americans annually, who now die because they lack health insurance... [W]hen our predecessors passed similarly historic laws such as Social Security in 1935 and Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, they knew the measures would require further consideration. In the years since those crucially important programs were signed into law, Congress has made, and will continue to make, improvements to those programs. And that is the key-- to make improvements to the law. Instead of spending our time looking for ways to build on and perfect the health care reform law, Republicans want to take a sledgehammer to it, to throw out everything, without any consideration at all.  No matter that our economy still needs our attention. No matter that millions of Americans remain out of work."

The ActBlue page we're launching later today is here and the donations to Blue America and Daily Kos go for the ads directly and the donations to Ed go to get his campaign against Lance going in a general way. And we're not the only grassroots group noticing this perfidy-- and Leonard Lance wasn't the only New Jersey Republican Member of Congress to commit it. The Public Campaign Action Fund is running this ad south of Lance's district in NJ-03, where Jon Runyan disgraced himself yesterday:

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At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First I have to say, I'm so happy to hear Ed will run for 2012...
Second, it's just ridiculous how the ones who want to repeal the health care law, they do get health care benefits unlike millions of Americans who can't afford it...
They should be working on other issues than trying to repeal it, it's a waste of time since the President will eventually veto the repeal !!!
The Congress should be trying to get the economy moving and one way would be legislateling health care in order to create more jobs...
Ida Ochoteco
Hillsborough, New Jersey

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OUR new representatives are voting against removing government health care for all at the same time they are accepting their FREE Congressional health care's a link to have a form faxed to your Congresscritter if they voted for repeal so they can opt out of that kind of hypocrisy like Joe Walsh and a rare few others have done..."

you can put in any address but you WILL need the correct zip code for your congresscritter of choice...

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sent Lance an email telling him to give up his congressional health care.

He wrote this back: "You may be pleased to know that I do not participate in the federal employees health benefits (FEHB) program.

In fact I have never been enrolled in the federal health care program since being elected to Congress in Nov. 2008. Many members of Congress may get their health care coverage through FEHB but I do not."

is this true?

At 8:35 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

There's no way to know for sure. Lance certainly took the New Jersey state taxpayer-subsidized healthcare when he was a legislator before 2009 and we don't know for certain what he's doing now because he voted against an amendment that would require all members of Congress to disclose whether or not they sign up for it. When the lists of Republican congressmembers who actually did pass on the program were released, Lance's name has never included on any.


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