Senate Health Care: GOPer Not Pleased With 'Bipartisan' Talks

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) says any compromise on health care that comes out of the Senate Finance Committee won’t be used in crafting the final bill. Hatch, a finance committee member, sat in bipartisan health care meetings for months before walking out last week.

Though he believes committee chair Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) deserves credit for his hard work, Hatch points out the president and leaders in Congress won’t agree to safeguard any health care compromise.

“Assuming that he comes up with a bill…you still have the House bill and the health committee bill that are both just partisan, Democrat bills,” Hatch said. “They’re just going to use those to tell them what the final bill’s going to be.”

The 33-year Senate veteran, who’s worked on legislation with ultra-liberals such as Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and even Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), confirmed bipartisanship has reached a new low in Washington.

“Let’s be honest about it — for years I’ve worked in a bipartisan way with some of the most liberal members of both the House and the Senate when they put partisanship aside,” Hatch said.

Hatch said last week that he thought Baucus hasn’t been given the ‘flexibility’ to allow for a bipartisan bill. Hatch told HUMAN EVENTS he thinks Baucus faces pressure from liberal Democrats in the Senate and House and also from the fact that a health care bill passed out of the Senate’s health committee.

“I think they’re living with what they’ve got to do if they are to pacify and satisfy the Democrats,” Hatch said.

Hatch’s exit removes the second most conservative voice among the group struggling with health care in the finance committee. The remaining Republican representatives are Iowa’s Chuck Grassley (lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 83.3%), Wyoming’s Mike Enzi (92.2%), and a familiar face in such negotiations — Maine’s Olympia Snowe (47.9%). Hatch’s lifetime rating is 89.2%.

Hatch cited three qualms among many with the health care negotiations that ignited his exit. The first was the public or government plan, alias a co-op plan. Hatch said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) advocated a state or regional co-op plan that still required a federal co-op with a federally appointed board of directors, who would provide the money at first and then – supposedly — pull out.

“Anybody that believes that hasn’t lived over the last fifty years,” Hatch said.

On his opposition to the second problem, the employer mandate, Hatch said he even received support from Democrat staffers. Hatch was the first person in committee to point out an employer mandate in health insurance — basically a penalty that certain-size companies would have to pay for not providing health insurance to employees — will make them cut back on employment, which Hatch says will hurt low income employees.

“My staffers started to get emails from Democrat staffers saying, oh, thank goodness for Sen. Hatch raising that point, because it needs to be raised, and they were afraid to raise it,” Hatch said. He added that the latest compromise being floated around, the ‘free rider’ provision, would be just as destructive on those with low incomes. According to Politico and other news outlets, this free rider provision will force employers to pay for any employee who either 1)gets coverage under Medicaid, or 2) money from the government to “purchase insurance through an exchange.”

Hatch also had a problem with a suggestion to raise Medicaid to 133 % of the poverty level, which would double his state’s cost (Hatch says Utah is at 74% federal poverty level currently; New York is at 100%). Hatch said that even if the federal government pays for the first five or six years, the states will have to pick up the tab after that.