Congressmen Who Vote for Government-Run Health Care Agency Should Be Its First Customers, Legislation Says
Thursday, July 09, 2009
By Matt Cover
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) (Photo courtesy of Fleming’s Web site)
(CNSNews.com) – Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) introduced a bill Monday that urges members of Congress who vote to create a government-run health insurance agency to give up their own comprehensive health insurance plans to join the new the public option they advocate for others.
The bill, H. Res. 615, says members of Congress who vote for a government-run health care bureau should become the inaugural customers of government-run health-care.
“That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that Members who vote in favor of the establishment of a public, federal government run health insurance option are urged to forgo their right to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and agree to enroll under that public option,” the resolution reads.
Fleming said he offered the non-binding resolution after he found out that under both the House and Senate proposals, members of Congress and other federal government employees will not have to participate in the planned health insurance exchanges for at least five years.
After five years, they still do not have to participate in the exchanges if they do not want to, while every other American must have a plan that conforms to the government’s rules, Fleming added.
“It’ll be at least five years after passage until a congressperson can – at least – opt in to the [government] system, and then it doesn’t force them to do that – it just allows them to do that,” Fleming told CNSNews.com.
“I think that the job of a congressman is to represent his people,” he said. “How can you honestly represent your people when you’re not dealing with the same problems and issues and decision-making that others do?”
Fleming said his bill would address the public perception that Congress doesn’t like to play by its own rules, exempting itself from the downsides of the “reforms” it says we all need.
“I think there is a very deep sense in the electorate, which I think is accurate, that Congress tends to exempt itself from the very policies that it creates,” said Fleming. “You have to believe that if Congress exempts itself or has an option that doesn’t force members into the same kind of plans [the public is required to have], then it’s, again, ‘What’s good for the goose is not necessarily what’s good for the gander’.”
Fleming said that if a public option does come to the floor, he plans to offer an amendment that would require, rather than simply encourage, members of Congress to enroll in the government plan.
“When the bill actually comes to floor – if it contains a single-payer option – then we plan to add an amendment that says that, there being a single-payer option, members of Congress will forgo their ability to opt into the federal program and that they will take the same single-payer option that most Americans will end up with,” said Fleming.
The “federal program” Fleming referred to is the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, which is available to all federal government employees, including members of Congress and their staffs.
It is essentially a health insurance pool that offers hundreds of different private insurance plans that conform to limited rules. Because all federal agencies and both houses of Congress participate in the pool, the benefits are quite good, better than those offered under many private plans because health care costs do not affect the government’s bottom line.
Fleming, a physician, said that private insurance is not without its problems and he agrees that the market needs to be reformed, but he also said that a government-run health system would make the problems worse.
“Already, we’re in a tremendous bureaucracy, red tape like we’ve never seen before both for Medicare and Medicaid and for private insurance,” he said. “Private insurance uses Medicare as kind of a template for what it does, so even private insurance as it exists today has a lot of red tape and issues. It’s not as bad as the government system, and it can be improved.
“We definitely need reform,” said Fleming. “What we need to do is have insurance reform by bringing in younger people and giving them incentives to opt in to the system. We need to reform insurance laws and do away with pre-existing illness [limitations], which is keeping a lot of people out of coverage.
“We need to provide subsidies to those who have marginal incomes,” Fleming continued. “They need portability, they need to be able to buy the insurance directly without the employer, and it all needs to be tax-deductible.”
Drop him an email or letter or call that says "Right on!"
Last edited by armedandsafe; 07-09-2009 at 12:10 PM..
I hope this gets passed but I doubt it will. There does need to be some reform in the Health care indusrty like Integrating of hospitals records and insurance claims but not a national health care system, it will fail.