2011-01-28 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

What If? How Health Care Repeal Would Bite The Big Apple
By Congressman Anthony Weiner

ANTHONY WEINER ANTHONY WEINER The push by Republicans to repeal health care reform has some of my Democratic colleagues worried about a replay of last year’s divisive health care debate. But the truth is that if health care is repealed, places like the Big Apple and areas all across the country will be significantly harmed. That’s why the strategy is more likely to backfire on Republicans at the same time that it provides Democrats the opportunity to offer people around the country, and New Yorkers here at home, a real roadmap to a healthier and stronger financial future.

For those leery about health care reform, the push for a blanket repeal may not sound sinister. But the reality should be frightening. A repeal of the law — if Republicans could somehow get it through the Congress and past the President, which is pure fantasy — would bring a number of popular reforms to a screeching halt.

That’s because while some of the changes in the health care law will be phased in over the coming years, there are several already in place to help New Yorkers who need care. Repealing the legislation now would mean an end to the new practice of letting young New Yorkers stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. It would mean a return to the days of copayments for preventive cancer screenings for seniors. And it would allow insurance companies to once again deny coverage to those with preexisting conditions.

If the Republicans are somehow successful, it would prevent the nearly 1.2 million uninsured in New York City from receiving basic health insurance. More than 265,000 young adults would be unable to opt into their parents’ insurance plans, and be left with no low-cost alternative as a result.

Also, the Medicare “donut hole” would be reestablished, increasing the cost of prescription drugs for nearly 60,000 seniors in the city.

It would also mean that insurance companies in New York and across the country would no longer be required to spend 80-85 percent of their premiums on health care and prevention measures for patients. They would revert back to using premiums to pay for overhead and executive salaries. This would be bad for all New Yorkers — insured or uninsured.

If Republicans want to rehash the merits of health care reform, I am eager for another opportunity to explain why these and other shameful insurance policies should be part of America’s past — not its future.

Aside from hurting New Yorkers directly, attempting to repeal health care reform will also reveal the Republican budget sham. No strategy to repeal the law can successfully move forward without highlighting a subtle but damning hypocrisy in their double-speak about red ink.

In order to show they are serious about cutting spending without raising taxes, Republicans are imposing a new legislative rule called “CutGo.” This will mean that any new federal expenditures can only be funded by cuts. It would prohibit any effort to increase revenue, even by closing tax loopholes or reducing corporate welfare.

The problem is that the Congressional Budget Office has already found that health care reform actually saves roughly $1.3 trillion over 20 years.

So the Republicans have a choice — either ignore the budget savings in health care reform by waiving their new rule right out of the gate, or ram through their ideological priority and try to find the savings elsewhere.

Either way, the Republican strategy suggests they are not as serious as they say about reducing federal budgets.

The truth is that health care reform is one of the most important ways we can lower spending now and in the future.

We may have passed a landmark reform bill, but many of us feel we ultimately lost a debate that was hijacked by Fox News, so-called “death panels” and an unending stream of Republican misinformation.

I’ll be the first to say that I thought we could have done a better job correcting public misconceptions about health care reform that linger to this day.

That’s why the push to repeal health care is ultimately a Republican misstep and a Democratic gain. We’re going to get a second chance to explain to Americans why this bill benefits every man, woman and child in this country.

We’ll have the opportunity to get the message right this time, and connect health care reform to our vision of how to build a stronger, more prosperous America.

If Republicans want to put aside real choices about America’s future and focus on repealing health care — a move that will, of course, be dead on arrival in the Senate, and would be swiftly vetoed were it ever to reach the President’s desk — that’s their call. But it would be a slap in the face to all New Yorkers, and a quick way to hand the ball back to Democrats.

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