As the debate over health reform reaches coffee shops and town hall meetings across the country, Kansans will face an onslaught of rhetoric.
Dr. Robert F. St. Peter, president and chief executive officer of the private, nonprofit Kansas Health Institute, said once a version of health care reform becomes more definite, his organization will try to provide information, explaining the details for people.
“There is a lot of hyperbole being thrown around on both sides,” he said. “The issue of expanding insurance coverage seems to have stuck; people are at a point to expand coverage.”
Four House and Senate committees have approved health care overhauls without any Republican votes. A group of three Republicans and three Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee has been meeting privately, in hopes of agreeing to a plan by Sept. 15.
Debate over the issue is expected to pick up this month because the House started its month-long recess Friday, and the Senate starts its break at the end of this week. If last weekend is any indication, the debate will get heated.
Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now federal secretary of health and human services, and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., were booed at a public meeting on health care Sunday in Philadelphia.
U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., an opponent of President Obama’s health care efforts, has written a piece that says Obama’s plan could restrict care to senior citizens “based on the government’s assessment of the value of a human life and the ‘cost-effectiveness’ of treatment.”
Brownback added: “The denial of care options to retirees is not a paranoid fantasy of opponents of reform.”
Supporters of Obama’s plan, however, say what Brownback is criticizing actually represents a rational way to measure the quality of health care, which will result in better diagnoses and treatment.
Kansans for Life, an anti-abortion group, issued a “call to action,” urging people to contact their congressional representatives and tell them: “No to health care reform that pays for abortion and denies medical conscience protection. No to health care reform where bureaucrats can deny care based on quality of life judgments. No to health care reform pressuring early death for the elderly, chronically ill and disabled.”
However, according to several nonpartisan analyses of the debate, these alleged proposals aren’t in play.
Most of the comment, so far, has focused on H.R. 3200, which the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved last week. The bill is aimed at expanding coverage for the poor, cutting medical costs and improving coverage for people who already have insurance. It would increase taxes on wealthy people and require businesses with more than $500,000 per year in revenue to provide health insurance to employees. And it would provide a government-run public option plan to compete with private insurance.
The Kansas Medical Society, an association of physicians with nearly 5,000 members, supports some aspects of that bill, but is opposed to other major portions of it, particularly the proposed public health insurance option.
In a statement put out by KMA, the organization says it fears the public option plan will lead to cutbacks on how much doctors receive for services.
“As provider reimbursement is cut to reduce costs, more employers and individuals will drop their private plans in favor of the less expensive, subsidized public plan, thereby inevitably moving us one step closer to a single payer, government controlled health system,” the KMA said.
But Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have a different take on H.R. 3200, saying it will help businesses get insurance for employees, assist seniors with prescription drug costs, cover the uninsured, and pay doctors for previously uncompensated care.