Here It Comes: New Medical Taxes from BaucuSCARE

Thursday, October 29, 2009

There remains a great divide between Democrats and Republicans on health care reform and the time for construction of the actual bill is upon us. It’s not so much what’s in the bill, because the politicians will have their way, but a more significant area of disagreement is what the final bill will actually cost and how it would be paid for. One stipulation is for it to achieve the President’s commitment to being deficit neutral. In order to achieve that goal, the Senate constructed (upon the prodding of the White House) a plan called the “Doctor Fix” legislation (S1776) that would in essence buy their support by “freezing” the mandatory cuts in Medicare and Medicaid payments over the next ten years to the tune of nearly one-quarter trillion dollars. That meant “sliding” some of the cost of the overall healthcare reform to other legislation so that the cost of the healthcare reform would barely come in under Obama’s proposed limit of one trillion dollars. Now, that, my friends is one heck of a political shell game! (We already know they plan to cut half a trillion from Medicare and Medicaid).

If you haven’t been living in a cave, you know there has been healthcare bill proposed in the Senate by Senator Max Baucus and was supposed to be the work done by the Gang of Six, a committee of six senators headed up by Senators Baucus(D) and Grassley(R). Magically, Senator Baucus released his own document which he alone sponsored (no one else apparently wanted to lay claim to it!) and which is referred to as the Baucus Framework. It outlines key provisions that Senator Baucus would like to see in the final healthcare bill. With the acceptance of the Framework by the Finance Committee, this proposed legislation spent several days behind closed doors where Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel, and others got their hands on it.  It emerged with an inserted Public Option….Uh-oh, they instantly lost some support! So, then they altered it to be a “States Can Opt Out Plan”. But that won’t work either. States will still have to fork over taxes to the federal government to pay for the States who opted in! That means that taxpayers in non-opted-in states will STILL be paying for someone else’s health care!

Besides “Doctor Fix” as a proposed way to disperse the cost for this monstrosity, the Baucus Framework has introduced several new taxes on pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, clinical laboratories and insurance companies. Let me put it a little clearer. Heart stents – new tax, motorized wheelchairs – new tax, and there’s more! In fact, anything that can be construed as a “medical device” (something that is used to improve health) and costs over $100 will have a new tax imposed upon it. The new taxes (Democrats call it “fees”!) over the ten year period would total $63 billion dollars just for pharmaceutical and the medical device industry. That’s a FAR cry from the more than $1 trillion cost as this legislation now stands! And guess what…. the cost of this reform is coming not from the filthy rich! It’s coming out of the hard-earned wages of middle America, those how are finding it more and more difficult to keep their heads above water. It’s coming from you!

Besides “Doctor Fix” as a proposed way to disperse the cost for this monstrosity, the Baucus Framework has introduced several new taxes on pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, clinical laboratories and insurance companies. Let me put it a little clearer. Heart stents – new tax, motorized wheelchairs – new tax, and there’s more! In fact, anything that can be construed as a “medical device” (something that is used to improve health) and costs over $100 will have a new tax imposed upon it. The new taxes (Democrats call it “fees”!) over the ten year period would total $63 billion dollars just for pharmaceutical and the medical device industry. That’s a FAR cry from the more than $1 trillion cost as this legislation now stands! And guess what…. the cost of this reform is coming not from the filthy rich! It’s coming out of the hard-earned wages of middle America, those how are finding it more and more difficult to keep their heads above water. It’s coming from you!

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No One Knows What Goes On Behind Closed Doors —

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Or do they?  You know politicians like to talk – a lot. And those who work with them seem to always be jockeying for position and/or attention. So, if you just get people to talking, you’re bound to find out something that “the powers that be” wouldn’t want you to know.

The Obama Administration has claimed the endorsement of the AMA for Obama’s healthcare reform, but as many physicians will tell you, most practicing physicians are not members of the AMA.  Do you remember the staged doctors’ meeting in the Rose Garden at the White House?  Where the hundred or so doctors were given white lab coats to wear so they would “look” like doctors?  Nice photo op – except the there weren’t any hospital or practice logos or names embroidered on them and the unfortunate pictures of staff handing out lab coats didn’t lend any credibility to the effect, either.   If one was so inclined, they could assume (as seen from the back anyway) that these may have been lab techs — or butchers from local grocery stores!  Apparently that gathering wasn’t an accurate representation of a wide-ranging support of physicians for Obamacare. 

As you know, the Senate elite plus Rahm Emanuel have been holed up behind closed doors  – and EVERYONE knows this is in direct opposition to the promise of total transparency Candidate Obama promised (everything would be on CSPAN – indeed!) –  trying to hammer out a Senate healthcare bill that will be acceptable to the wary moderates in the Senate.  On Day Seven of the closed door sessions, the White House and the Senate leaders came up with this brilliant idea of ordering Congress to pass a $247 billion bill (S1776) as a payoff to doctors to try and gain their support for this comprehensive healthcare reform. 

In regards to the “Secret Bill”, as reported by The Hill, “The White House and Democratic leaders are offering doctors a deal:  They’ll freeze cuts in Medicare payments to doctors in exchange for doctor’s support of health care reform.”  The $247 billion “Doc Fix” bill totally excluded any public debate, or for that matter, any public knowledge.  This “secret” bill was designed to get a large block of physician support – only it didn’t work as planned and Harry Reid blames the AMA, though not by name.   (Apparently the AMA lobbyists were supposed to “deliver” about two dozen Republican votes for this bill, but that didn’t materialize even though some Republican Senators have supported short-term freezes to Medicare cuts in the past.)

Physicians have been forced to take cuts in medicare payments for quite some time and now a promised half-trillion dollars more in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid over the next ten years.  The only place that cuts can come from is from the payout to doctors who are treating Medicare and Medicaid recipients.  However, I would imagine that the doctors would much rather see the Medicare/Medicaid payment structure be a part of the reform and not be the “backbone” of how Obama/Pelosi/Reid plan to pay for their healthcare system. 

Anyway, this week the Senate used cloture to bring the “Doc Fix” Bill S1776 to a vote, but it failed 47 to 53.  So, it looks to me like perhaps our lawmakers are aware that the public has become more enlightened about what is going on in Washington and ordinary citizens have become focused on their legislative activities. Perhaps this closer scrutiny and the sharing of information between people and groups are making lawmakers squirm a bit when it comes to ramming something like this “Doc Fix” bill through without much semblance of debate or use of “legal trickery” to move a bill through quickly…. afterall, it is their political futures that are on the line!