Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fortenberry & Friends on Health Care

by Kyle Michaelis
Nebraska's all-Republican Congressional delegation had a public hearing in Lincoln yesterday with Illinois Republican Don Manzullo, chairman of the House Small Business Committee. The rising costs of health care were the main topic of discussion.

Both the World-Herald and Journal-Star covered the meeting. Here's some of the more interesting factoids from their joint articles:
-Only about two-thirds of small businesses nationwide can afford to offer their employees health insurance, Fortenberry said. The cost and availability of the coverage are the most frequent complaints.

-The testifiers said they each spend between 10 percent and 30 percent of their total budgets on health care costs. Peggy Green, president of Green's Plumbing in Lincoln, said she expects health insurance rates to increase 15 percent to 20 percent next year.

-The session was called to examine why more small businesses can't provide health coverage to their employees. No solutions to the individual problems detailed were offered, other than Manzullo's recommendation that small-business owners look around for the best rates. "I would shop, shop, shop," he said.

-After the hearing, Fortenberry said there were no easy answers. "It is a very long book with a lot of chapters," he said.

-Osborne said he continues to push for a law that would require drug companies to sell their medications in the United States for no more than they charge in Canada. He also said electronic storage of medical records could reduce administrative costs.

-Manzullo said the cost of health care has replaced government regulation as the No. 1 concern among small businesses. Three of every five uninsured people in the United States work for small businesses, he said.

--People can't expect a new government-financed health care program, he (Manzullo) said. "Washington is broke."

Interestingly, neither full-length article made any mention of Lee Terry's involvement besides his attendance - maybe this isn't a problem he cares much about. As for the rest, they seem to capture the Republican Congress' complete lack of vision quite well.

At least Osborne makes an attempt and shows some willingness to expect more of pharmaceutical and insurance companies. The others, reflecting their entire party, are so beholden to large corporations that they seem content to let the little guy hang out to dry as long as they can get away with it.

Health care costs are bankrupting small businesses and enslaving working families in an endless cycle of fear. All the while, Medicaid programs, which this forum doesn't seem to have touched upon, are running on empty nation-wide, as every other vital service offered by the states gets gobbled up by the American health care monster.

The Republicans have controlled Congress for 11 years and done nothing as the system has crushed economic growth and moved towards total collapse. President Bush has turned a blind eye to health care, preferring to look 35 years down the road for ways to make more of a mess of Social Security rather than dealing with this infinitely more immediate crisis.

They say nothing can be done. They refuse to rein-in the greed that makes families choose between food and filling a prescription - the same greed filling Republican campaign coffers. When will the people realize they deserve more? When will someone rise up and say America can and must do better?


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