Lummis: health care is ‘budgeting never-never land’
Casper – “It used to be that ranchers could project their input costs. While they didn’t know the commodity prices, they at least knew the range. Now the most unpredictable thing is the effect that federal legislation will have on their business,” says U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis of the recently passed national health care bill.
Lummis says the bill has thrown the ag industry, and all business, into a “budgeting never never land.”
“The only way that bill penciled out for 10 years was to provide 10 years of taxes plus Medicare cuts, coupled with only six years of benefits. The first time 10 years of benefits are matched with 10 years of taxes, from 2014 to 2024, the actual hit on the budget is $2.4 trillion,” she explains. “It’s unsustainable, and the people who passed it know that, and to me that’s unconscionable.”
“The best thing we could do is repeal the bill and start over,” says Lummis, explaining it’s not adequate to repeal the bill and do nothing. “I challenge those who say the Republicans were the ‘Party of No,’ because the Republicans had multiple bills to address the most egregious problems with our health care system.”
She lists the three main problems as a health insurance system that’s unaffordable and uncompetitive, that pre-existing conditions preclude people from obtaining insurance and that Medicare currently under-reimburses physicians and hospitals to the tune of 21 percent.
As it stands now, the bill includes 20 new taxes, most of which will take effect in 2011. However, most of the benefits to people without insurance won’t kick in until 2014.
“Employers who will be required to either carry government-approved health insurance or pay a penalty will know sometime before 2014 what government-approved health insurance means, what it will cost and whether it will be cheaper for them to pay a penalty and put their employees on this health care exchange, or if it will be cheaper to provide health insurance. All of this remains to be seen,” says Lummis. “It is those types of unknowns that made this bill impossible to analyze in terms of its affect on all industry, employers and individuals.”
“We will learn in the months to come more about what the effects will be on states, employers, small family farms and ranches as well as individuals and large employers. Right now members of Congress have as many questions as the public, and we’re unfortunately not able to answer them this soon after the bill’s passage,” says Lummis.
Of the lawsuit led by Florida and joined by other states, Lummis says she’s glad litigation is being brought against the constitutionality of requiring Americans to purchase a product as a condition of being American.
“That component is constitutionally suspect and worthy of court challenge. I suspect the reason a number of states are suing has to do with the eventual financial obligation on their citizens and on their states. It’s a double hit,” she explains, saying citizens will bear the 20 new taxes plus the additional costs of expanded Medicaid over time.
Of Wyoming’s decision to not join other states in the lawsuit, Lummis says, “I suspect part of the reason a state might decide to let other states bear the cost and the time of doing so, is they have less at stake financially because of smaller populations.”
She mentions Florida may have chosen to be the lead plaintiff because of its large population, and because such a large percentage of its population are seniors and Medicare patients.
Of the Tea Party groups that have organized, Lummis says she thinks they’re a “force for good.”
“I’m delighted to see people from all over the state, from all walks of life – a lot of them concerned about their children and grandchildren – get involved,” she comments. “Nationally the group is comprised of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and yes, they’re talking about it in Washington.”
She says between 30,000 and 60,000 people were in Washington, D.C. the weekend Congress voted on health care. “They’re scared and angry that Congress would refuse to listen to them. They didn’t want this type of reform, and it has awakened the sleeping giant.”
Regarding the multitude of changes federal agencies are looking to implement, and most not in the best interest of the ag industry, Lummis says they have caused a “barrage of concern” about the direction of the Obama administration.
“This administration is unilaterally acting – without the legislative branch – to change policy in a way that is consequential to not only agriculture, but to business in general in this country,” notes Lummis. “I’m tremendously concerned. People I talk to are angry, scared and frustrated and I share their anger, concern and frustration because I see it happening right in front of my eyes.”
“I’m trying to remind everyone who will listen that they’re still in control of this country. In November the American people will have the opportunity to implement a course correction,” says Lummis, adding that if ever someone felt their vote didn’t count, there is no better time than 2010 to change their mind. “We have to start in 2010. This is the year to take our country back.”
In addition to running for re-election herself, Lummis urges Wyomingites to help change the course of Congress through visiting with friends and relatives in other states whose Representatives voted for Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, and asking them not to vote for them again.
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.