Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch pulled out of a bipartisan group seeking compromise on health reform [last] Wednesday, saying they were going in a direction he just couldn't support.I don't know if it was a "blow" to the "gang" and I guess I respect him for being honest, unlike Sen. Conrad (D-ND) who seems content to blow up health care reform by going on Sunday talk shows and being a member of this "gang" wherein his fellow Senate Democrats, who hold 60 votes, are being shut out. The gang, in fact, is now three Dems (Chairman Baucus Sens. Bingman and Conrad) and three GOPers (Sens. Grassley, Snowe and Enzi). But fine, Utahns keep sending Hatch back to the Senate so that our state will have clout. What better way than to involve yourself in an important piece of legislation?
His decision is a blow to what has been called the "gang of seven" in the Senate Finance Committee, the last group of lawmakers attempting to craft a proposal that would have some level of Republican support.
"It is a matter of honor that I don't want to pretend that I am helping them with something I just don't agree with," Hatch said. "What I don't want to do is mislead my colleagues."
The Utah Republican has a long list of concerns with how the bill is coming together, including the requirement that businesses either offer insurance or pay a fee to the government that would be used for health subsidizes for the poor, known as the employer mandate.Sen. Hatch, do you know any low income people who have health care via their employer? It is pretty rare. Without an employer mandate, employers will just dump their employees from their health care plan and force Uncle Sam (and John Q. Taxpayer) to foot the bill. Don't believe me? Go into a Walmart some time. That's what they do. In fact, Maryland had a pass a bill a couple years back to prevent Walmart from adding to the state's medicaid bill by doing this trick. The only other way to ensure that everyone gets covered (therefore the health care costs are more fairly spread and shared) is to do an individual mandate, but I suppose Hatch is against that too.
"I really believe that is going to cost a lot of low-income people's jobs," he said.
Hatch also dislikes the idea of expanding the number of people in Medicaid and a plan for a government controlled insurance option saying: "I know that it is just a constant push to get us all to a single-payer system."I suppose offering subsidies so that these same low-income people can get health insurance something that Hatch was previously so concern about (150-200 percent of the federal poverty limit are the cutoff points I have heard discussed) is a horrible thing. And a public option, which would effectively set minimum standards of coverage and force private insurance companies to compete for insureds would also be terrible somehow.
I say "compete" because in many if not most markets, a single HMO holds a dominating share, sometimes even a monopoly. For instance, Blue Cross/Blue Shield controls 83% of the market in Alabama. No wonder Alabama's senators are opposed to the public option.
"Sooner or later I think the president is going to have to realize that they are trying to build a bridge too far here, without the appropriate materials," he said. "They are going to have to sit down and realize that we have to do the art of the doable, not an expansion of health care we can't afford."I'll tell you what we can't afford, Senator, it is the status quo. Nationally, health insurance premiums have doubled in the past ten years. Doctors are drowning in private insurance companies' red tape. Patients are literally dying because private companies are denying coverage for "experimental" procedures. Maybe you can afford to wait, or do half measures Sen. Hatch. That's because you have a choice of health insurance options provided and paid for by the US taxpayers. Why can't I have your health care? Why are you against that?