Friday, September 04, 2009

Today's Most Hateful Republican Stooge: John Fleming (R-LA)


Fleming's not right about much but he's got this part right

Congressman John Fleming is a reactionary Republican freshman from Minden, Louisiana who beat a reactionary Democrat last year and now represents the 4th congressional district in the western part of the state, nestled between Texas and Arkansas. He won his seat by 356 votes, the closest contest of the year, making him the second Republican who's held the seat since Reconstruction. Fleming, a former coroner, is also the CEO of the Fleming Group, which has acquired 30 Subway restaurants and holds the franchise licenses for 135 UPS Shipping Stores. According to yesterday's Shreveport Times Fleming is not just adamantly opposed to health care reform as a congressman, as a business owner, he's careful to follow worst employment practices to make sure he doesn't contribute to most of his 500 employees' health care.

Chris Whittington, chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, pointed out that Fleming himself, who made over $5 million for himself last year, "is making a killing as CEO while his employees are forced into the ranks of the uninsured. Fleming continues to side with insurance companies who are making outrageous profits at the expense of his own employees and constituents.” The few employees who do qualify for health care, pay a $3,300 deductible.

Fleming's record on health care is consistent; he always votes against working families. Last February one of his first votes in Congress was to oppose SCHIP, which passed by a 290 -135 bipartisan landslide and brought medical insurance to 11 million needy children. A month later he reiterated his anti-family stance by voting against making investments to bring America’s health care system into the 21st Century, and before the House took off for the summer he voted against a bill that will help local governments prepare for the expected swine flu epidemic.

One of the poorer districts in Louisiana, the median income is only $31,085 and there are 141,000 uninsured people, 122,000 of whom would be eligible for the kind of high-quality, affordable health insurance that Fleming the employer won't help his employees with and that Fleming the congressman adamantly opposes his own constituents getting. You'd think that a guy who squeaked in by 356 votes a year ago wouldn't want to piss off 141,000 people in one shot. The House Energy and Commerce Committee took a good look at how the passage of HR 3200 would effect LA-04. And if ever there was a congressman who should be for this bill, it's the congressman who represents this part of Louisiana.
• Help for small businesses. Under the legislation, small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $40,000 qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 11,500 small businesses in the district that could qualify for these credits.

• Help for seniors with drug costs in the Part D donut hole. Each year, 6,100 seniors in the district hit the donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs, despite having Part D drug coverage. The legislation would provide them with immediate relief, cutting brand name drug costs in the donut hole by 50%, and ultimately eliminate the donut hole.

• Health care and financial security. There were 2,100 health care-related bankruptcies in the district in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance. The bill provides health insurance for almost every American and caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $10,000 per year, ensuring that no citizen will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.

• Relieving the burden of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers. In 2008, health care providers in the district provided $159 million worth of uncompensated care, care that was provided to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills. Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care would be virtually eliminated.

• Coverage of the uninsured. There are 141,000 uninsured individuals in the district, 22% of the district. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nationwide, 97% of all Americans will have insurance coverage when the bill takes effect. If this benchmark is reached in the district, 122,000 people who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage.

• No deficit spending. The cost of health care reform under the legislation is fully paid for: half through making the Medicare and Medicaid program more efficient and half through a surtax on the income of the wealthiest individuals. This surtax would affect only 1,870 households in the district. The surtax would not affect 99.3% of taxpayers in the district.

Someone living in this part of the state would have to be either a multimillionaire like Fleming or plumb crazy to even consider voting to re-elect him next year.

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