Sen Enzi spends long hours on ‘right’ health care reformWritten by Christy Hemken
Although the exact provisions of the bill are surrounded by rhetoric, Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association says the provisions related to a public health insurance option represent more government and therefore wouldn’t be good for any citizen, including farmers and ranchers.
The American Farm Bureau Federation says health care “reform” will have a huge impact on the cost, quality and availability of the health insurance that farmers and ranchers purchase for themselves and their families and for the workers they employ.
Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) says a government-run option for health care is “not an option.”
Lummis reports 52 new entitlements and 33 new government agencies will be created to run the proposed health care programs. “It is the view of Americans all over the country and the people I’ve listened to in Wyoming that this is exactly the wrong direction,” she states.
Enzi leads the conservative side of the six-member Senate Finance Committee, which is working through H.R. 3200. A similar bill from the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, of which Enzi is also a ranking member, was approved July 15 and will compete with H.R. 3200 in the Senate. Enzi is opposed to both.
“A government-run plan would increase health care costs, lessen service and add to our huge debt. The American people are doing a great job of getting this message across to the Administration and Congress,” says Enzi.
The remainder of the Senate Finance Committee includes Democrats Max Baucus (Mont.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Republicans Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). Committee action is expected mid-September.
“Senator Enzi has been behind closed doors for six to eight hours every day for many weeks, negotiating with the other members of the Finance Committee to come up with a suitable compromise,” says Lummis of the bill’s intricacies, continuing, “Mike Enzi is the voice of reason on the six-member committee and he’s the most active in trying to preserve and protect the doctor/patient relationship and do what President Obama says that he wants.”
Although Enzi agrees health care reform is urgently needed, he says a government takeover would make the situation worse. He introduced the “10 Steps to Transform Health Care in America” bill in the last Congress as an alternative to improve American health care.
The Senate is considering non-profit health insurance cooperatives, where consumers could band together to seek better rates and coverage from insurance companies. That approach is similar to the small business health care plans that are a part of Enzi’s 10 suggestions.
“The co-op approach has potential and should be considered as long as it’s not hijacked as a backdoor way to get a government-run program in place,” he says. “I believe the American people have made it clear that this is not something they want. It worries them and they have rightly expressed their concerns.”
Magagna says the co-op approach could also apply to organizations wishing to form partnerships and offer health insurance to their members, such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association or a group of several state stock growers associations.
Lummis says another aspect Enzi is trying to negotiate is the ability for citizens to continue with their current health insurance arrangements if they wish. “Under this bill, that’s not necessarily available,” she says, noting that a loophole exists that would allow employers to pay the eight percent penalty, switch their employees to “ObamaCare” and save money doing it.
“For the ranchers who buy policies as individuals or families, they wouldn’t be able to do that anymore,” explains Lummis. “After the bill goes into affect, those who have private insurance would be able to keep it, but those who don’t would be put on ObamaCare and the purchase of insurance privately would no longer be allowed.”
On the House side, all three committees with jurisdiction completed work on H.R. 3200 before Congress’ August break. In late July several changes were secured regarding reimbursement rates under the public plan that would be more fair to rural areas and require fewer small business to provide coverage. Floor action in the House is expected mid-September.
“Enzi needs our support,” says Lummis of the committee work. “He is by far the most conservative person among the six on the committee, and he’s got his hands full trying to pull that group to the most conservative position he can.”
Enzi says he won’t impose an “artificial deadline” on the bill’s completion. “I have not and will not agree to an artificial deadline because I am committed to getting health care reform right, not finishing a bill by some arbitrary date. Improving access to quality, affordable health care for American families is too important to do hastily. Additionally, since many of the policies under discussion will not take effect for a number of years, we should focus on the goal of meaningful reform and not rush to meet timelines.”
“I think there is opportunity for a rational solution, but we’re at a frightening place,” states Lummis, calling it a huge win that the bill wasn’t voted on before Congress recessed. “It’s a bad piece of legislation, and a lot of members know it – both Democrats and Republicans.”