Here is my letter:
To the Editor:
Congressman Stephen Lynch addressed Town Meeting on Wednesday evening and spent a considerable amount of time defending his no vote on health insurance reform. Unfortunately there was no opportunity to challenge the Congressman on many of his claims that ranged from misleading to completely false.
The Congressman based his resistance to reforming our health care system on five key points:
1. The Senate bill did not contain a public option.
This claim is completely disingenuous as Congressman Lynch is on record as opposing a public option. It is shocking to have a Congressman oppose a key provision of health care reform and then claim he opposed the bill because it did not contain the public option he previously opposed.
From politico.com September 8, 2009:
At Sunday’s Boston Common rally for President Obama’s health care reform, Lynch was booed (Boston Globe, September 8, 2009) during his speech by the very same activists he’ll need to win over in the upcoming special election. A longtime advocate of labor interests, Lynch wasn’t even invited (Boston Globe, September 8, 2009) to the state’s leading labor breakfast this weekend because of his skepticism towards the proposed public option component of health insurance legislation.
Notably, Reps. Michael Capuano, Ed Markey and state Attorney General Martha Coakley all loudly expressed support for the public option at these same events. Lynch’s hesitation – combined with his past record – means that he’ll face a tough challenge to win the nomination.
This type of hypocrisy by politicians continues to feed our cynicism and loss of faith in government.
2. The Senate bill raises the revenue to extend coverage to the uninsured by applying a “Cadillac” tax to current plans that most of us will pay.
Congressman Lynch implied that this “Cadillac” tax would affect all of our health care plans. This is untrue. The Cadillac tax goes in to effect in 2018 and applies to a very small percentage of health care plans in America, those plans costing over $27,500 for families. The $27,500 threshold will increase at the rate of inflation and possibly more if health care inflation is higher.
For comparative purposes, once Walpole switches over to its rate saver plans, the most expensive plan will cost $18,204 per year. This is a far cry from the $27,500 threshold at which the “Cadillac” tax will kick in. In addition, municipal health care plans, like those for employees of the town of Walpole, are some of the most generous plans in the state. For those in the private sector the average cost of a health care plan in Massachusetts is $13,788.
To imply that all of us are going to pay this tax is not only a blatant scare tactic, it is a lie.
3. Congressman Lynch represents his constituents, not the President of the United States, the Speaker of the House or anyone else.
This is true. However citizens of Massachusetts and residents of Walpole will benefit tremendously from the national health care bill. Phil Edmundson, CEO of William Gallagher Associates and John O’Brien, CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care, wrote in the Boston Globe that national health care reform will:
Make insurance for affordable for Massachusetts families and individuals
Today, a family of four paying about $1,000 a month for health insurance, and earning up to $66,000 a year, is eligible for sliding-scale subsidies to help pay that bill, freeing up much-needed cash for rent, groceries, and heating bills. Individuals making less than $32,000 are also eligible for help with premiums. National health reform would bring sliding-scale subsidies to an additional 75,000 middle-class individuals and families around the state.
Help Massachusetts’ small businesses.
Small businesses would also get a lot of help. Approximately 70,000 small businesses, many of which are struggling to hire the workers they need to be successful, would receive new tax credits to offset 50 percent of what it costs to offer health insurance to their workers.
Help Massachusetts’ seniors with their prescription drug costs
Prescription drugs would become affordable for nearly 200,000 of Massachusetts’s seniors. As national health reform fixes the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” seniors could focus on being well, instead of splitting pills or skipping days between meds in an effort to make them last longer. And all seniors could get preventive care visits and enjoy wellness programs, as national reform will guarantee Medicare coverage for such benefits.
Create jobs for Massachusetts health care industry
National health care reform would also bring significant increases in funds available for medical research, primary care, community health centers, and health quality improvements. This would allow Massachusetts’ knowledge-based economy to thrive.
4. Full implementation will not take place until 2018 and the politicians who passed the bill will not be around to take responsibility for its consequences.
Major parts of this bill take place immediately. According to the Christian Science Monitor immediate reforms include:
Insurance companies will be prohibited from placing lifetime caps – limits on the amount of money that can eventually be paid out – on their policies. They’ll face new restrictions on setting annual caps, as well.
Insurance companies also will be prohibited from pulling your coverage, except in case of fraud or intentional misrepresentation.
Children won’t be excluded from coverage due to pre-existing health conditions. Plus, children will be able to stay on their parents’ policy until age 26.
Small businesses that offer health coverage to employees will be eligible for tax credits of up to 50 percent of premium costs.
Seniors who fall into the coverage gap, or “doughnut hole”, in the middle of the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage plan will get $250 to help them pay their bills.
People with pre-existing health conditions will be able to enroll in a new, but temporary, national high-risk insurance plan.
Health care is complicated and the delayed implementation of some provisions is to ensure that families, companies and the federal and state governments have the necessary time to adjust to the changes. Implying that the timeline for implementation is delayed because people are embarrassed is disingenuous at best.
The only Washington politician I know who is not hoping to be serving in 2018 is the only one who is limited to two terms by the Constitution, President Obama. So this accusation seems to be a thinly veiled and cheap criticism of the President.
5. The bill maintains the anti-trust exemption for health insurance companies.
This is true and Congressman Lynch implies that because the antitrust exemption remained in the bill as a giveaway to insurance companies. However, it seems insurance companies didn’t get the memo. These very same companies fought the health care bill tooth and nail.
Removing the antitrust exemption is important but should not have been grounds for opposing the entire bill. No bill is ever perfect as evidenced by Social Security Act of 1935 spearheaded by FDR. When Social Security was passed it did not cover agricultural and intermittent workers. These exclusions were designed to keep most women and minorities out of the Social Security program. This was a clear injustice yet would the United States be better off today if FDR’s entire Social Security bill was defeated over these legitimate criticisms?
Ensuring that every one of us has health care that can’t be taken away even if we lose our job, has been the number one domestic policy priority of the Democratic Party since the 1950’s. It took sixteen years to revive health insurance reform after the defeat of President Clinton’s initiative. If Congressman Lynch had successfully helped defeat this
effort it likely would have been another sixteen years or more before anyone tried again. With his no vote on health care, it is now obvious that we cannot depend on Congressman Lynch to stand up for the values many of us hold dear.
That is why I urge you, if you are a Democrat or Independent, to vote for Mac D’Alessandro in the Democratic primary on September 14th. Send a message to entrenched incumbents like Congressman Lynch that they need to represent our values not their perceived short-term political interests.