With Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives, Obama health care reform legislation has come under fire. A repeal vote was originally scheduled for last week, but was postponed due to the shootings in Arizona. That vote has been rescheduled for Wednesday, and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says that rural America should be concerned:
“Well, here’s the concern that I have with this effort; we’re just turning the corner with this economy, jobs are beginning to be added to the economy, and people are beginning to get a little bit more confident about the future. And that’s one of the reasons we are at that point, is I think, people have a degree of certainty, they know what the rules are; they know what the tax policy is, they’ve got a payroll tax holiday, they’ve got a business expense deduction that is great for farmers and ranchers in the new tax bill, got estate tax relief. So, there’s a degree of confidence, well, now, what we’re going to do now is turn the page back, we’re going to have….re-litigate if you will, a debate that we had, a very divisive debate, over health care.”
Vilsack is mindful of what last year’s health care reform legislation did for rural American’s, as well as small business owners:
“Here’s the concern that I have for rural America; under the old system there were greater numbers of uninsured in rural America, there was more out-of-pocket expense paid for health care cost by folk in rural America, there were fewer doc’s and primary health care nurses in rural America, and seniors were paying more for their prescription drugs in rural America. Then along comes this new health care law, and it addresses many of these concerns, it provides seniors with additional assistance for lower prescription drugs, it puts an emphasis on wellness and prevention so that our overall costs will be lower, it ends a lot of the tricks of the trade that insurance industry was using to deny coverage to people, like pre-existing coverage for children, or lifetime limits on healthcare coverage. And it provides a tax credit for farmers and ranchers and small business owners so that they can better afford health care coverage. All would be essentially repealed in this effort to turn the clock back. In a time when we’re trying to move forward, it seems kind of strange that we would be looking backward.”
It’s not the whole health care bill that people are concerned with, just parts:
“Then, essentially if you had a debate about specific aspects of the bill, it would be one thing, to perfect it. I mean, every piece of legislation gets changed over time. But, to essentially to repeal it, especially at a time when we ought to be focusing on job growth, when we ought to be focusing on how we might be able to reduce the budget deficits that the government faces and get our financial house in order, we’re talking about repealing a bill that will actually reduce the deficit, and if it were repealed we would see another $230 billion over the next decade added to the deficit making it that much more difficult a job which is already difficult more difficult.
So, it doesn’t seem to me, especially at this point in time, when folks are looking for us to come together to focus issues of common concern…it doesn’t seem to me that it’s going to be beneficial to have this divisive debate, especially since it’s not going to go beyond the House. The Senate’s already indicated their desire not to take this up, the President is obviously not supportive of it, so, kind of, what is the point?”
While the talk of repeal in the House has been loud, the words ‘repeal and do over’ haven’t been heard. Vilsack says it would be one thing to have a replacement plan in the works, but that doesn’t seem to be the case:
“Well, that’s another thing, if we had a circumstance where we knew what folks wanted to replace the bill with, that might be a different issue, but we know that there is no replacement proposal, it’s just simply, ‘we’re going to repeal this’, and we’re going to end the tax credit for farmers and ranchers, and small business owners, and we’re going to bring back pre-existing conditions exceptions, and lifetime limit exceptions that allow insurance companies to deny coverage, we’re going to provide free preventative and well-care testing, we’re gong to allow seniors to have reduced drug costs through closing the donut hole, and we’re not going to reduce the shortage of rural health care providers because we’re going to roll back the reimbursement rates that were increased under Medicaid, so there are many reasons why this is not a particularly good thing to do at this point in time.”
The debate on health care reform legislation is set to begin in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack