Monday, August 3, 2009

Here is what you ask your Congressman

Hugh Hewitt: 10 August recess questions for your congressman

By: Hugh Hewitt
Examiner Columnist

August 3, 2009

Members of the House are back in their districts, and senators will join them in their states after next week. If they are doing their jobs - a big if - they will be meeting with constituents over the next month, and this is your chance to impact the debate on the radical proposals to restructure American medicine.

These proposals are now making their way towards a final debate and vote in the fall. Here are 10 questions for any meeting you might have or e-mail you might send. (And 10 answers any honest representative or senator would give you.)

1. Do you guarantee that I get to keep the plan I have and the doctor I have? ("I know you have heard the president say this repeatedly, but expert after expert has confirmed this is simply not true. Employers pick health plans, not employees, and if the new law puts forward a cheap 'government option/public plan,' employers will dump employees into it and pocket the savings as smart business people will do when given such a choice.")

2. Will the law require Members of Congress and federal employees to be enrolled in the "government option/public plan," and if not, why not? ("No, it won't. Of course not. Because the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) is a gold-plated, great plan that Congress will never give up for the cost-driven, tin-plated "government option/public plan.")

3. Will seniors be guaranteed joint replacements, stents, and the chemotherapy they need, or will they be forced to accept less-costly and less-effective alternatives? ("Of course they aren't going to get the best, most expensive treatments. Medicare is already nearly broke and the only way we can pay for it and the massive expansion of it to the uninsured is to ration care and take away the expensive treatment options.")

4. If seniors will be allowed the expensive but most effective treatments, how will costs be controlled? ("Like I said, the days of hip and knee replacements are gone when this plan passes. Get a cane.")

5. Will seniors have to wait longer for their treatments than they do now? ("Much longer. Doctors aren't going to want to see any 'government option' patients, and especially not time-consuming geezers.")

6. Will doctors see their payment schedules drop? ("Yes,dramatically. Some specialists, like anesthesiologists and pathologists will get creamed if Medicare rates or even slightly-higher-than-Medicare rates get adopted by the 'government option/public plan.'")

7. If their payments fall and they make less money, won't there be fewer doctors practicing medicine? ("Yes, far fewer. The job is often very hard, and even very caring people can't be expected to work that hard for much less money. Many will drop out, or open 'boutique' practices.")

8. Doesn't Canada have long lines for important surgeries? ("Yes, that is widely reported.")

9. How will making our system more like Canada's not mean longer lines and longer waits here? ("It will mean longer lines and waits, and shorter visits with the doctor when you do get in.")

10. Have you read the bill well enough to be interviewed about it on the radio by a conservative talk show host? ("C'mon. Of course I haven't and of course I won't. Have you seen even one extended interview with even one Member of Congress about the specifics of the bill with even a moderately skeptical journalist?")

Let me know if any of your representatives surprise me and say yes to the interview proposed in question 10, and I'll have them on the next day. But don't expect any Democrat to agree to extended interviews on the bill, even if it is the most civil of conversations.
The versions of the bill in the House are indefensible when scrutinized, so expect more and more rhetoric and fewer and fewer answers.

If and when seniors realize that AARP has sold them out and that they are going to be put in a long, long line to second-class treatments, the real blowback will begin, so sponsors of Obamacare will be doing their best to stay away from questions for the next month.

Examiner columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

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