Teletown Hall Meeting
September 16, 2009
I was taking notes by hand and could not catch everything. If you have questions on the congressman’s views you should contact his office. Apologies in advance for any errors or misconceptions.
Pat Walker, editor of the Bucks County Courier Times and the Doylestown Intelligencer, moderated the call. Ray Landis of AARP joined Murphy on the call.
Murphy started with the story of a woman whose father died because he couldn’t get private insurance and so was waiting for treatment until he was old enough to get Medicare. Murphy mentioned an article in today’s Inquirer on a new report from the Kaiser Foundation [blogger's note: I think it is "Health-care costs still outpace inflation, study shows," by Stacey Burling)
There are 60,000 people in Bucks County with no health insurance. The proposed legislation would provide an annual and lifetime cap on out of pocket expenses, prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, and close the donut hole. These reforms will protect seniors.
Q1: If a scientific poll showed that the majority of the residents in the 8th congressional district were against the bill would you vote against it?
PM: I am keeping track of the comments coming in to the office and so far most want reform.
Q2: Caller is on social security disability. Has a young adult daughter but can’t put her on my medicare.
PM: I found funding for a clinic near where the caller lives. It would cost over a thousand dollars if your daughter went to the ER but only about $50 for her to go to a clinic for an appointment.
Q3: tort reform
PM: I want tort reform. Only claims that have merit should be brought.
Q4: Does AARP support this bill?
PM: AARP has endorsed components of the bill. Defer to Ray Landis of AARP.
Ray Landis: The AARP wants to close the donut hole; parts of HB 3200 are very good. We are closely examining the bill and will continue to look out for our members.
Q5: small business owner. Will my costs go down if I don’t have to pay for the uninsured.
PM: Yes, small business tax exemption, up to 50%. The average cost is $1300, would be a $600 tax credit.
Q6: question on caller’s insurance coverage
PM: health insurance companies should be able to compete across state lines.
Q7: Families that earn over $60K, a family of 4, would not get a subsidy. How will we afford insurance?
PM: There is a small business tax incentive. The northeast has a higher cost of living so the cut off for subsidies is $88K for a family of 4; it isn’t free but a subsidy.
Q8: Is Medicare affected?
PM: The bill actually makes medicare more sustainable. It closes the donut hole, preserves choice of doctor, silver sneaker program for preventive health care. The AARP would not support a bill that would hurt seniors. Cut waste and abuse (refers to IMPROVE bill)
Q9: Will this create more bureaucratic agencies? Heard there would be more than 50 new ones.
PM: changing and tweaking; making voluntary boards more efficient. Blue Dog Democrats want government to work more efficiently.
Q10: believe in health care reform but don’t see the need for rush
PM: Fighting against special interests. Did not want to vote on the bill before the August recess. Closing the donut hole is a priority. The country has been debating health care for decades.
Q11: Need tweaking of system but illegal aliens should not have access to the system and we should have hearings with insurance companies.
PM: On insurance companies – met with [name] of Independence Blue Cross, want to work with them but they have to play fair. He agreed that we need reform. On illegal aliens, the bill specifically states that no federal funds will be used for illegal aliens.
Q12: Explain how paying for this by raising taxes on the wealthy doesn’t hurt small businessmen, whose taxes might be raised.
PM: If a company has under $750K in payroll and doesn’t provide health care there wouldn’t be a problem, but if more than 25 employees, would get a 60% subsidy to provide insurance. In 8th congressional district up to 1800 small businesses could get help with coverage.
Q13: small businessman. Love a lot of reform but public option is an obstacle
PM: The Senate bill doesn’t have a public option and still all the Republicans voted against it. Insurance companies need to give in here. Have only a limited number of federal dollars. Only $2 million for public option, over 10 years. Congressional Budget Office says only 5% of the population will go into it.
Q14: The issue is jobs not health care.
PM: We have great medical schools, great doctors, need to keep it in private market. Businesses struggle because of medical costs. Lockheed pays $14K per employee for health care; they can’t afford it with co-pays, etc. We need tort reform, to close the donut hole, help small businesses. It costs over a thousand dollars for someone who is uninsured to go to the emergency room.
Ray Landis: on local school board. Property taxes affect everyone and the costs of providing health insurance to school employees increases property taxes.
Q15: Money taken from Medicare but won’t affect Medicare?
PM: Doctors have to use direct deposit to avoid fraud. The majority of the funding for the bill is from private industries. The pharmaceutical industries are providing 10% of the total. Hospitals are stepping up because of reducing Medicare costs. Lower Bucks County gives away an average of $10 million in medical care to the uninsured. They would like to reduce this.
Ray Landis: Medicare costs – cut hospital readmissions would save Medicare millions a year. Require hospitals to give some after care but more would be saved by preventing hospital readmissions.
Q16: Why are people opposed to the public option?
PM: Some people are afraid of government, and want to keep the status quo. The public option is a choice, funding at $2 million over 10 years. Health care is a personal and emotional issue.
Q17: Problem with Obama saying you can keep your insurance if you like it. Can an employer pay an 8% payroll tax and force me into the public option?
PM: Employers right now have a choice to cover you or not. Some do, some don’t. We need an incentive to help small businesses and say to large employers, you have to provide health care or pay.
Closing remarks: thanks Pat Walker and Ray Landis.
The only thing not on the table is the status quo. We must achieve this reform together.
Thursday, September 17, 2009