Stupak’s Tawas Town Hall
[First, S- means Congressman Stupak; Q()- means questioner(number)]
As we walked in, we listened to Stupak describing his Stupak/Pitts Amendment and he delivered his signature line, “No Public Funding for Abortion.”
S- But there is nothing that prohibits an individual from buying abortion coverage.
(He was showing a slide presentation that showed the difference between the House bill and the Senate bill.
The House bill covered 36 million uninsured.
The Senate bill covered 31 million uninsured.
The House bill takes effect in 2013, the Senate, 2014, and only the House bill provides a public option.)
S- We eliminate the insurance company’s anti-trust deal, only insurance companies and major league baseball benefit from anti-trust laws.
The House bill has no federal funding for abortion, the Senate does, but “states can opt out if they want to.”
S- President Obama’s plan eliminates Nebraska’s sweet heart deal, although Louisiana’s was allowed to be kept in.
(Congressman Stupak expressed a dislike of Obama’s effective date of his plan-2018.)
S- So, here’s what we have, the house bill 3962 passed November 7, you have the Senate bill 3590 passed Christmas Eve, and on February 22nd, you have (Obama’s) eleven page summary.
To date, no legislative text for a final bill exists. Hopefully, this week they show us something.
To pass this health care, we’ll rely at least in part on a process called reconciliation which requires only a majority vote in the Senate.
Bush tax cuts were done through reconciliation, SCHIP, Medicare Advantix, and COBRA were all done through reconciliation.
So, President Obama wants to pass a bill by Easter, we’ll see.
The President is twisting arms, for instance, me, for the second time in my eighteen year career, I was asked last week if I wanted to go watch the Russian Opera and I could sit in the President’s Box at the Kennedy Center.
The Blue Dogs were taken down to the White House, and Obama told them to vote for his health care plan. I’m not a Blue Dog, I’ve always been accused of being a Blue Dog, but I’m not a Blue Dog.
Again, reconciliation……March of last year in the President’s proposal, he had a line in there that said, 340 Billion over 10 years for the health care, and it was a number that would never pay for healthcare,….with that amount of money, but what it was, it was a place holder. That’s how he’s using reconciliation, that idea was hatched a year ago.
(The slide presentation was over, and the Congressman opened the floor to questions.)
Q1- You were talking about the quality and quantity of healthcare?
Q1- Shouldn’t tort reform come in there somewhere?
S- Sure, (went on to talk about malpractice insurance.) But the President put four more proposals on the table Thursday, one was malpractice reform, he set aside 50 Million dollars to find out what works, how do we do it. Second, reimburse the doctor’s more, third, the Federal Government would pay more, States would have less of a share, and four, purchase across State lines.
Q2- I support health care reform, but I do not support this bill. (Applause) You guys are doing too much, trying too hard to do everything at one time, just when the American economy is in a nose dive, and I predict this,….any of you that support this bill will be sent packin-the polls bear this out.
You sent out a brochure recently regarding jobs.
Q2- And you listed over 200 jobs in a bio-processing plant in Alpena.
S- In Alpena, yup.
Q2- Those jobs don’t exist. The design of the facility doesn’t exist.
S- The problem is that the formal name of the conglomerate of this American Processing Inc. is DPI- Decorative Panel Incorporated. So, between the jobs that have been preserved by taking and pressing the fluid in the process they are using has created 218,000 jobs, oops sorry, 210 jobs.
And if you read it, it says, it says that these are jobs that they have created or retained.
Now, you tell me that this grant isn’t going to help DPI keep their jobs up there.
Q3- I’d like to see a show of hands here, who supports this bill?
(1/3 of room raised their hands.)
S- There are three bills in play.
Audience member- It’s not written yet.
S- The President has put some pages out last Monday and another set on Thursday. Now, these bills have to be reconciled. Some parts may be from the House bill, some may be from the Senate bill, some parts will be the President’s recommendation.
Q3- Sorry, let me be like in a court and I’ll rephrase the question. How many people think that the government which has never ever had a program that has been funded and performed to actually lower the cost of anything, how many think they should take over their health care.
(1/3 of room raised their hands. Some laughter.)
S- There is a program that does it very well, it’s called Medicare.
Q3- Everything you are doing is, we have to do this and we have to do this now. What we are doing is bankrupting this country. You guys can pass this bill if you want, but there is no money for it, and nobody is addressing this, you talk about
Billions of dollars as if it’s nothing.
S- I believe we need health care in this country. Insurance premiums are going up 70-80% and wages are going up 4.6%, we just can’t afford it.
Now, we’re all in this together.
Every product we make costs more money because there’s health care in there.
We have to get rid of that, it is straining your family budget, the State budget, the Federal budget.
Audience member- I get my health care from the government, and it’s the best I’ve ever had, it’s been a godsend. It’s from the VA.
Audience member- I would just like to let the young lady know that the government does not get in between you and your doctor, the insurance companies do.
Q4- If I do not choose to use formal health care, I am more into holistic, am I going to be mandated to participate in the government plan, even though I don’t use it?
S- Holistics is in there.
S- I don’t know the exact page, Holistic Medicine, especially traditional by tribe is recognized in there.
Q4- I’m not from a tribe.
S- If you don’t, yes, you will have to pay a 2.5% tax.
(expressions of disdain)
Look, we’re all in this together, we’re all gonna pay.
Audience member- That’s Socialism!
S- Look we all want health care to be there when we get sick in order for it to be there, we all gotta pitch in.
S- If you get hurt and that ambulance comes to get you, it just can’t be there when it’s convenient for us.
When the small businesses came before the committee, they said, “Our number one concern is healthcare, we can’t afford it.”
I talked to a number of employers today and they said do something with it, give us how we are going to do this. We wanna be able to have health care so we can keep our employees.
Q5- And how did health care become part of the employer’s responsibility?
S- In World War II, instead of giving wage increases they started a program to include healthcare.
Q5- Government Intervention!
S- but let’s go back to even before WWII, if you want, President Teddy Roosevelt was one who first proposed healthcare in this country.
It affects all of us, it affects your policy, it affects…
Q5- Where in the Constitution does it give you the authority to do this?
S- Article I Section 8 says if the majority of people come together for the general welfare of the country, (arguing) look, you won’t find taxes in there either.
If we ever pass health care, there will be a lawsuit to challenge the Constitutionality of it, that’s why we have the checks and balance, I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut right now, that if we pass healthcare, the majority of the House members say yes, when the Senate says yes, and the President signs it, I bet you the court will rule and decide that this is in the best interest of the country and it’s Constitutional.
Before we have a chance to vote on the legislation as I always do, I’ll read it, I’ll understand it, and I’ll try to make the decision that is in the best interest of our district and our nation.
Q6- When it comes down to the Senate bill and reconciliation, if your abortion language is not in it, are you gonna stick to your guns?
S- Yeah, I’ll stick to my guns, but,..um, it’ll be worked out. We’ll get it worked out, we had it worked out before you ever heard of the Stupak Amendment, it was worked out and then they reneged on it.
I’m taking the position that we’ve not had public funding for abortion, the President said on either September 8th or 9th, that there will be no federal dollars for abortion, let’s keep it that way.
No one can say I’m expanding it, no one can say I’m restricting it, let’s keep current law.
The last time the House and Senate voted on it, December 14th, President Obama signed it on December 16th, which was a Labor appropriations bill, which says under section 507, section 508, there shall be no public funding for abortion programs except to save the life of the mother, rape or incest. Since they just signed it, everybody was okay with it 90 days ago, put it in the bill and we can be done.
But, I’m still waiting for them to answer that.
Q7- I was wondering how you derive the dichotomy between the 450,000 people that would die annually without health care, and abortion? How do you deal with that?
S- How do I deal with it? 45,000 people each year die because they lack health insurance and access to medical care um, they are born, they are into this country, they had an opportunity at life, how do you deny someone that right? So, I think it’s consistent.
This bill, I’ll probably get a couple of people cranked at me, this bill is really a Right to Life Bill. If you are having a child right now, what do you get on Medicaid? You get 2 appointments before the child is born and one after, and that’s our prenatal health care, which most babies are born on right now.
So, I think this bill is a pro-life bill, it promotes preventive, healthy living, it promotes healthy babies being born.
Audience member- What bill are you talking about?
S- House bill.
Audience member- But that’s not in play right now.
S- Yeah, it’s still in play, the Senate can pass it tomorrow if they wanted to, but they don’t want to, they wrote their own bill.
When the final bill is written, remember, we have 3 scenarios here, the House bill, the Senate bill, and the President’s proposal, and I think the final bill will be a combianation of the three.
The Chairman of the Democratic Party of Antrim County- The people of Antrim county are hot because they are afraid they will not get health care.
I suggest everyone read The Healing of America by T.R. Reeves,…. who comes to one conclusion, two countries that passed health care in 1994 the same year that we defeated it, he comes to the conclusion that the most important thing to do today is to get everybody into a health care system. Once they are in the system, then we all have a political interest in improving it later on.
But, we have a strong smell around the bill because it doesn’t feature all we would like to have, but we recognize that having a bill is more important than solving every nuance that is put into it.
I need to also tell you that our concern with you as representative will be over the Hyde Amendment, you know that, I know that,
S- I know that.
Chairman- And our concern is that the Hyde Amendment isn’t current law, why do we have to stand for redundancy rather that just do the bill, we can have improvements later on.
I do know that the Hyde Amendment requires annual approval, so it’s a political consequence of that, but please don’t let it go down in defeat over a single issue.
S- The reason why we need the Hyde language in this, the annual appropriation, once you pass this health care, doesn’t apply.
Once we enact this, it’s a law, separate and distinct, how we fund that from time to time is different, but it’s a free-standing bill.
The courts have ruled, in Michigan’s case it’s Engler vs. Planned Parenthood, that if you are silent on the abortion issue, therefore, it is covered.
So, those of us that have worked on this issue for a very long time as I have, if we don’t put it in, then abortion is covered using tax payers money.
Back in June, a hundred or so of us in the House wrote the Speaker and said, abortion is a polarizing issue, if you are serious about health care, leave it out of there, we’ll work our way through this.
Bart Stupak cannot inject abortion….
We stripped the Capps language and I put forth the Hyde language and we won in committee until the chair said, we’re gonna do a revote, let me get some more people in here so we can keep this amendment.
Then, …. November 6th, I got in, negotiated with the Speaker, Chairman Waxman, Hoyer, we had a deal, we were going to roll the dice a compromise that principle so we could move health care along.
So, I’m not trying to inject anything, pro-choice forces thought they had the upper hand on this issue, all they had to do is know their legislative history that every time they have this vote, a majority of the American people feel strongly–No Public Funding for Abortion.
We can’t restrict the right, we can only restrict how it’s going to be paid for.
Do I think we’ll work it out? I had a good conversation with Chairman Waxman. I gave him those 8 pieces of legislation, said, tell me which one you want, I’ll put it underneath there, “it’s under this act,” I’ll put that language in there, end of discussion, it’s resolved.
My regret is, the debate we should be having on healthcare has become overshadowed by this abortion deal, that’s why in June we said, don’t bring it up, but for whatever reason, they couldn’t help themselves, they put it in there.
Q8- Nancy Pelosi said last week that there is no abortion funding in the bill, and then she said that it can’t be taken out through reconciliation because that’s only a budgeting process.
Q8- Seeing as how you’re a Catholic, I’m a Catholic, we’re all Catholics, you know, me, you and Nancy, how do you think that you’re going to win the abortion issue when the Vatican said in October 2008 that the Democrat Party is the Party of Death because of it’s pro-abortion stance?
How do you think that a majority of Democrat Catholics vote pro-abortion every time, and you are up against the most pro-abortion President this country has ever seen?
S- Okay, a couple of things, it can be done through reconciliation, remember I said reconciliation was used for SCHIP…
Q8- But isn’t it up to Nancy? She’s the leader.
Q8- She’s the one twisting arms.
S- it….She didn’t wanna have my amendment, we got my amendment, we passed it, okay.
Now, in SCHIP, 1997, we had the language in there, no funds for abortion, that was through reconciliation, in 1995 again on a budget vote again, through reconciliation, on medicare…
Q8- You’ve said this before and I hear you, but, that’s not what she said.
S- Well there are rules, and as I’ve constantly said, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If we wanna get this thing passed, and if we have to have that Hyde language in there to get it passed we’ll find a way to get there.
Q8- However, there is 73% of the American people want you guys to either start over, or not touch this bill.
S- Congress has been starting over for 98 years.
Q8- I think you should start over again.
S- Again, we will continue to reach out to Republicans, they have some good ideas such as malpractice reform, other things. We’re not gonna start over. This is the closest we’ve come, you are probably gonna see an up or down vote in the House, in I betcha the next 2-3 weeks and we’ll move the process along. I think it’s an issue no doubt that divides the country, everyone is uncertain with what we are doing.
It’s hard for me to give you a definite answer because there is 3 different bills.
So anyway, we’ll put together a bill and run the trap lines on it.
Q8- Oh, and as far as public funding for abortion, why did you vote against defunding Planned Parenthood last July?
S- Planned Parenthood, believe it or not, does health care.
Q8- And abortion.
S- And with those monies, there is a restriction they cannot use it for abortion, and in Northern Michigan,
Q8- They are the reason we have abortion in this country…
S- Yes, but they can’t….there is 3 or 4 or 5 Planned Parenthood clinics in my District, and they provide quality health care.
Q8- And abortions.
S- No they don’t
Q8- Yes they do.
S- Not in the First Congressional District.
Q8- Oh, alright.
S- They cannot use federal funds to perform abortions that’s always been the restriction, they’ve abided by that restriction.
Q8- Okay, I’ll check it out.
S- Now, next time, I might not vote the same way….just kidding.
Somebody else have a question?
Q9- A lot of this looks like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The things that are the most brazen expenses aren’t even mentioned, you know, such as, a sense of entitlement by much of the public, “I want it now, I want it by you, and I want it last week, and I don’t wanna pay for it.”
We have been so spoiled that we always think there will be some way to fix our problems.
Let’s say you have a patient with colon cancer, has surgery, does well, I have one with colon cancer, has complications after surgery, you can’t judge what quality of care was given, necessarily by that outcome.
And then the no co-pay for prevention that you describe,
S- For Medicare, right.
Q9- It’s been absolutely irrefutably demonstrated in numerous research that patients that invest monetarily for their care, they have a better outcome in treatment and take recommendations more responsibly.
S- There are a number of plans in this legislation mostly for seniors where we do wanna do screening so we can catch it earlier.
For every dollar, you invest in prevention, you save 10 dollars.
Q9- But you know, a family physician charges about 300 dollars for a colonoscopy, a Colorectal Surgeon charges 2000, it’s down there at the grass roots that so much of the money is being misused or not used where it would be most effective.
S- That’s why we want to go to quality based outcomes.
Q9- How can you judge the quality of care?
S- There are ways to do it, there are a number of strategies that have done it…..
The Institute of Medicine, IOM, there are numerous studies that show you use quality, in fact, there are knee surgeries right now under Medicare based on quality system as opposed to quantity, so,
Q9- You can’t base quality on necessarily an outcome.
We left. We were there for an hour, and it was wrapping up.