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Health Care Stampede Continues

Will CBO report slow the herd?

The House Committee on Ways and Means in the wee hours of the morning this morning passed H.R. 3200, the Democrat’s Orwellian named America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, by a vote of 23-18. The committee markup of the Democrat healthcare bill began yesterday, a bill that will cost American taxpayers a minimum of $1.5 trillion dollars. Likely more. A lot more.

Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget office (CBO), testified before the House committee markup yesterday as well as the Senate Budget Committee working on its own healthcare plan. He gave the same dreary news before both committees: all of the Democrat health care bills don’t cut costs and escalate government spending.

“In the legislation that has been reported we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount,” Elmendorf said. “And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs.”

I spoke with Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House committee, about the CBO Elmendorf testimony last night.

“He said that the Democrat healthcare plan would significantly increase the deficit in the long term, that it would significantly increase the cost of healthcare, and it was fairly dramatic testimony,” Camp said. “CBO, of course, is the expert that reviews legislation. We’ve been saying that the approach [the Democrats have] taken, the framework they’ve set up for this bill would cause that and this confirms what we’ve been saying all along.”

We also spoke about amendments Republicans offered that the Democrats voted down. One such amendment offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) would have struck the so-called “public option.”

President Obama promised the American people, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

Two independent studies found that more than 100 million Americans will lose their private insurance under the Democrat plan. This Ryan amendment would have struck the government-run plan that would put private insurance out of business. The amendment was defeated in a 25-15 vote.

“It’s also going to cut the reimbursements for physicians and for hospitals significantly because they’re going to pay Medicare rate,” Camp said. “Medicare rates are not consistent around the country. Some areas, particularly on both coasts, get a much higher reimbursement than those in the Midwest.”

This would not bode well for retaining doctors in rural areas under nationalized healthcare.

Democrats also voted down an amendment from Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nv.) that would require all Members of Congress to get insurance through the government-run plan. Apparently Democrat members of Congress do not like the government plan they’re trying to inflict on the rest of us. In a straight party line vote, Democrats voted against exempting themselves from the government-run plan by a vote of 21-18.

“We also had an amendment to require that members of Congress must participate in the government-run plan,” Camp said. “If it’s such a great idea, it should be a great idea for members of Congress. The majority voted to prevent that from happening. They voted to exempt members of Congress from the government-run plan.”

Also voted down were amendments that would require proof of citizenship or legal status to sign up for the government plan, that would bar government funding abortion as a plan “benefit,” and an amendment that would bar rationing of health care based on comparative effectiveness data.

“We got a big amendment [Wednesday] at about midnight,” Camp continued. “From the draft we got a couple of weeks ago, which was incomplete to this amendment, they dropped the word ‘rationing’: that the Comparative Effectiveness Board could not ration healthcare. They took that word out, so we tried to put that word back in to make it explicitly clear that you will not be rationing care with the information and the analysis that the Comparative Effectiveness Board will be able to do with all of the information they receive.”

If that’s not bad enough, “The bill creates both in the Health and Human Services secretary and in an unelected health and human services benefits board the authority to mandate what benefits should be in both private and public insurance,” Camp said.

The bill is looking very shaky for passage by the full House. The price tag of $1.5 trillion from a CBO estimate of only parts of the bill leadership would allow them to see has enough Democrats representing traditional Republican districts very nervous. They’re still nursing their twisted arms and cancelling town hall meetings from their vote to pass the giant cap and trade national energy tax.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced yesterday that he would actively oppose the House bill when it makes its way to the Senate.

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Connie Hair writes a weekly column for HUMAN EVENTS. She is a former speechwriter for Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).

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