2011-01-28 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Republican Lawmakers Deserve A Spanking From Their Grandparents
Commentary By Howard Schwach

I have been watching and listening closely to the Republican screed against the health care reform bill that was passed last year – often called “Obamacare” by those who want to destroy it, and I have only one idea each time I hear a Republican lawmaker speak on the issue.

That thought is, “That person must not have parents or grandparents.”

I have to tell you right off the bat, that if one of those Republican lawmakers was my kid or grandkid, I would walk right up to him or her on television and give them a good spanking, because they apparently want me to live a shorter and more painful life.

For me and my wife, both of us well into the Medicare age, the new law has been a godsend, and will even be more of a godsend this year and in the years to come.

For some, their major healthcare issue is getting any health care at all. The new law allows parents to keep their children on their policy until age 26 rather than age 23 as in the past prior to the bill. That is a big help to millions of Americans, but it is not a personal concern.

My personal health care issue is the dreaded “Donut Hole,” so-called because, under Medicare, you get your drugs paid for both before and after the point where you are in the donut hole, but during the period you are in it, you pay nearly all of the cost for your much-needed prescriptions.

As an example, a family member is diabetic and takes Lantus insulin.

From January to July, when that person’s drugs are paid for to the tune of $2,800, a 90-day supply of Lantus costs us a co-pay of about $86.

Beginning in late July or early August, however, we are in the donut hole and the same prescription of the life-saving drug costs $346.

Quite a difference. Add all the other drugs that most diabetics take, that also go up during that period, and you can see that a person living on only a Social Security check would be hardpressed to pay up or would have to forestall some other purchase – like food or heat.

A person on Medicare does not get out of the donut hole until he or she has spent more than $3,000 out-ofpocket, the “Catastrophic Coverage Period,” where nearly everything is covered.

In 2010, the new bill mandated that each person in the donut hole get a check for $250, not exactly the savior, but better than nothing. This year, the bill mandates that the government pays for 50 percent of the drug costs for those in the donut hole. Much better and getting to the heart of the problem.

Within ten years, the donut hole will be gone entirely.

We are not alone in the donut hole. Congressman Anthony Weiner’s father is in the donut hole as well, and perhaps that’s why he understands the problem and wants to deal with it. Those who oppose the law probably do not have parents or grandparents, or they would understand the importance of the law as well.

On the day that the House of Representatives, now controlled by the Republicans, debated repealing the health care bill, Weiner gave a “halftime” report on the floor of the House.

He accused the Republicans of lying to the public, of making statements about the bill that were far from the truth.

”They are making stuff up and I’m wondering if any of them actually read the bill,” Weiner said. “Right now people are playing that popular drinking game where people take a shot every time the Republicans tell a lie. I would suggest you get a designated driver, because this is going to be a long day for you.”

Early in the week, Weiner warned his colleagues that the “bill fairy” would not come and save the GOP if they scuttle the Affordable Health Care Act and force businesses to drop health care coverage for their workers.

“Without coverage, people would have to go to the emergency rooms to get their care,” Weiner said. “Who do you think pays that [hospital] bill, the bill fairy?”

The new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, is typical of those Republicans who apparently do not have parents or grandparents.

He has promised to forge ahead with a repeal vote, even in the face of evidence that millions of both young people and senior citizens have benefited from the first year of the bill and the fact that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that a repeal would increase the federal deficit by $230 billion over the next decade.

“I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care law will increase the deficit,” he said.

He did not say anything about the donut hole.

In fact, you can check all of the speeches made by Republicans during the repeal debate and you will never hear those words, because they know that calling to keep the donut hole as it is will one day be a vote-killer in their home districts. There are a whole lot of voters out there, and a growing percentage is senior citizens.

The CBO report also said that 32 million fewer people would have health care should the Republicans find a way to eviscerate the bill.

Even though the bill will pass in the House, where the Republicans hold sway, there is no chance that it will pass in the Senate, where the Democrats still rule.

In any case, the president would surely veto any bill that did away with his signature health care plan and the Republicans do not have the votes to override his veto.

So, the bill will stand, but then the Republicans will mount a campaign to remove its funding, to knock it out, item by item.

Perhaps, before they do that, they should speak with their parents and grandparents.

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