Candidates for the 50th Congressional District give their opinions on healthcare reform

We asked the candidates for the 50th Congressional District seat for their opinions on healthcare reform. Here they are:

First, Do No Harm

By Congressman Brian P. Bilbray

Let me be absolutely clear about our current health care debate: We need a system of health care that provides affordable access to quality care. Republicans and Democrats agree that our system needs reform. Unfortunately, the 1,990-page H.R. 3962, the so-called Affordable Health Care for Americans Act of 2009 that was recently rushed through the House of Representatives, isn’t bi-partisan, makes health care more expensive and gives no guarantee that America’s money will not be wasted.

The bill, written in closed-door meetings, carries a heavy price tag. The non-partisan congressional agency that provides economic analysis projects the true cost of the bill to the American taxpayer as more than $1 trillion. Since then the bill has bloated to $1.2 trillion. The non-partisan agency also said that it will cost America more in the long run than if we kept the current broken system in place. They also estimated our 2009 federal budget deficit at $1.6 trillion with a ten-year projected budget deficit of $9 trillion.

The funding mechanism for H.R. 3962 is made up of three parts: higher taxes (such as the income tax surcharge, the small businesses tax increase, and a tax increase on the makers of medical devices), new penalties (such as the penalty to individuals who do not comply with forced coverage or the business penalty) and billions in cuts to Medicare Advantage.

H.R. 3962 falls flat on efforts to control costs. One solution would be to enact medical tort reform to limit attorney’s fees.

H.R. 3962 specifically bans reducing attorney’s fees and does nothing to control outrageous litigation rewards. Private insurance regulations must be reformed so individuals with pre-existing conditions are not denied coverage, and so insurance seekers can cross state lines to find more competitive health insurance. Further, small businesses should be free to band together in order to purchase insurance at the same rates given to large corporations.

Brian Bilbray, a Republican, is the incumbent in the 50th District Congressional race.

Bilbray Needs a Shot of Reality

by Francine Busby

Mr. Bilbray needs a shot of reality about the benefits that health insurance reform will bring to businesses and families in San Diego. It’s time to stop fighting and start working together.

Within San Diego’s five Congressional Districts, over 600,000, or 20.2 percent of people are uninsured. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in Bilbray’s own district, 15.8 percent, or over 103,000 people are currently without health insurance. Under Mr. Bilbray’s preferred proposal, the Republican Plan, none of those 103,000 will gain access to healthcare.

In contrast to the Medicare Prescription Drug Act of 2003 that was rubber stamped by a Republican Congress without any provisions to pay for it, the Affordable Health Care For Americans Act of 2009 will pay be paid for, according to the CBO. The Medicare Act prohibited the government from negotiating costs for prescription drugs. The costs ballooned to $724 billion by 2006. The new bill corrects that problem and closes the gap in payment for prescription drugs that has hit Seniors hard.

Contrary to Mr. Bilbray’s protestations, the Affordable Health Care for Americans Act states clearly that residents in the country illegally are not eligible to participate in the program. In other words, no taxpayer funds will be used to provide health insurance to those present illegally, period!

Claims that healthcare insurance reform harms small businesses are absurd. Small businesses are among those who will benefit the most. It will finally allow them access to large-group rates with a choice of plans that offer better benefits. According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), the surcharge would not affect 98.8 percent of all small businesses.

The health plan passed by Congress is far from perfect, but it is a monumental first step towards fixing the ills currently plaguing health care in America.

Francine Busby is a candidate for Congress in the 50th District in San Diego County.

By Dave Roberts

Almost 30 years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer on Sen. Ted Kennedy’s campaign for president, and he inspired me to work for justice for those less fortunate.

He believed that affordable health coverage should be available for all Americans. Since 1980, I have worked tirelessly to transform our nation’s health care system and was pleased to see the U.S. House of Representatives listen to voters and pass health insurance reform legislation that will start to fix the inequities in the system and address this problem that is affecting our economy and our nation’s future.

As chair of the Organizing for America Grassroots 50th Congressional District Health Policy Team and an adviser in the Obama administration on Medicare education, I know that while no piece of legislation is perfect, this bill does help resolve some key challenges that affect voters in San Diego.

In particular, I was extremely disappointed by the passage of the Stupak Amendment that has taken the pro-choice movement back and taken rights away from women in our country.

I am pleased that this legislation eliminates lifetime insurance caps. If it is passed by the Senate and signed into law, this will be effective in 2010, so that none of the 25,000 individuals who reach their lifetime caps each year will die waiting for the provisions to take place.

This legislation will also end barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions; maintain coverage for individuals when they change or lose jobs; improve patient safety and quality of care; invest in prevention and wellness; protect families from bankruptcy or debt because of health care costs; and reduce the long-term growth of health care costs.

There is still much to be done. I will continue working to make sure that all residents in our district are heard in Washington, D.C., and that a fair and just solution is signed into law by President Obama.

Solana Beach resident Dave Roberts is a Democratic candidate in the 50th Congressional District.

Americans deserve choice, options

By Wayne Dunlap

Americans are eating worse, getting less exercise, and depending on too many drugs. Preventable diseases are on the rise at an alarming rate. I believe that current estimates for future health care costs are dangerously underestimated. Americans should assume responsibility for their own health with less reliance on drugs and surgery. We should provide better education so Americans can do so.

As recently as the 1960s, low cost health insurance was available to virtually everyone in America including people with existing medical problems. People alive today can remember when doctors made house calls and a hospital stay cost only a few days pay. Also, charity hospitals were available to take care of families who could not afford to pay for health care.

Then the government moved in with Medicare, the HMO act, and thousands of regulations on doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies.

Today health insurance costs are skyrocketing. In every country where government provides or pays for health care services, the results are the same: long waits for substandard medical services, particularly elective services.

Americans should have the freedom to determine the level of health care and health insurance they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use, and all other aspects of their medical care.

Patients are better served by having options and choices. Such choices and options will happen only when we unravel our current bureaucratic system of health care and change the tax code to allow individual Americans to fully deduct all health care costs from their taxes, as employers now can.

Until we do, patients will pay ever rising prices and receive declining care while doctors continue to leave the profession in droves.

Wayne Dunlap is a Libertarian candidate for the 50th Congressiosnal District.

Leadership means addressing health care problems

By Tracy Emblem

Congressman Brian Bilbray asks us: “How will America pay for the Affordable Health Care for Americans Act?” Yet, he fails to acknowledge that insurance companies have no incentive to keep costs and premiums low because Congress has shielded health insurance companies from prosecution of the anti-trust laws for bid-rigging, price-fixing premiums and creating their own protected markets for almost 65 years.

He also fails to recognize that taxpayers are already paying for health care. The poor have access to health care through Medicaid and the elderly are covered by Medicare. But for the rest of us, between 1999 and 2008, the yearly premiums for family coverage went up 119 percent, while the inflation rate was only 22.1 percent.

Our employers cannot continue to pay escalating health care costs, and neither can our taxpayers. When we go without health care coverage, taxpayers end up paying higher prices in emergency rooms and for hospitalization instead of for less expensive preventative care.

Bilbray also ignores the hidden health care costs from burning oil and coal fossil fuels. Recently, the National Academies of Science released an estimate of our hidden health care costs — $120 billion annually, which does not include the impact of climate change.

Doing nothing is not the answer. Governments of all other industrialized countries have found it less expensive to provide comprehensive universal coverage. This is because the real cost containment solution must be employed through a universal public option.

The California Nurses Association with the Institute of Health & Socio-Economic Policy and a number of advisory boards outlined a plan for the cost-effective delivery of health care. If we cannot fix the problem through Congress, individual states should be able to implement their own public plan. We must triage our taxpayer dollars and enact policies that put American families first.

Tracy Emblem is an attorney and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, California’s 50th District.