US Congressioal Rep. Roy A. Blunt holds up three fingers to illustrate the changes that would have to be met before President Obama's public option should be supported. (photo by Vince Rosati)
"It can't get any tougher than this," was a remark made by Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO) that brought nervous laughter from a crowd of realtors during their luncheon/meeting held at Twin Hills Country Club in Joplin yesterday. Blunt was referring to the slowdown in real estate sales that has trickled through the local economy.
That reminder couldn't have boded well with Lana Nelson, a broker associated with RE/MAX Classic who wanted to call to Blunt's attention that there were people suffering economic woes in between the uninsured and corporate America. Nelson said that as self-employed workers she and her husband have seen their health insurance premiums escalate from $217 a month to $1200 on coverage that included a $5,000 deductible--escalation that shouldn't have happened.
Blunt agreed with her. His solution was to get more dynamics in the marketplace. He called for having an open enrollment period in insurance in general, similar to what exists in the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or Medigap policies, an opportunity to create more choice, for insureds to be able to switch to plans with lower premiums. He also called for insureds to be able to purchase insurance across state lines, although that might be something interfering with local regulations, and for the creation of a risk pool that really works and not be one that people can't afford.
Regarding the cost of the new health care plan, Blunt said that "trillion dollar talk has become reasonable discussion in DC." He compared the creation of a health care plan costing $200 billion to insure 30 million people with the possibility of buying the best policy for all Americans with this money but clarified that he wasn't suggesting that.
And how will the $120 million a day expense be paid back? Blunt offered three suggestions: (1) not pay it back at all, (2) raise taxes that would cripple the economy or (3) debase the currency--something almost guaranteed, he said, if nothing else is done.
Government should meet its current obligations before figuring out how to deal with other obligations, Blunt said. His example included dealing with health care obligations already in trouble like Medicare and Medicaid that has crippled the state. And he called attention to the fact that Medicare and Medicaid don't pay all the bills.
Changes that have to be made, Blunt said, include medical liability reform, information technology reform and more transparency in what things cost. He encouraged everyone to shop around for the best care at the cheapest price. "Competition and choices equal quality and price," Blunt repeated a couple of times.
Blunt cited an analogy comparing government run health care and the private sector to an elephant in a room full of mice: the fast mice get out of the room as quickly as possible, the slow mice get crushed, and what's left in the elephant. "What those in government want," Blunt said, "is government run health care." And at this point he catalogued all the criticisms Republicans have for creating a national health care system.
"...government can barely run government" Blunt admitted. In suggesting that every Congressional employee should take the new insurance on day one, Blunt said that "we voted not to vote on it."
Cap and Trade Bill
When the Missouri League of Conservative Voters heard the statistic that supporting the Cap and Trade bill would demand an 80% increase in utility bills within 10 years, they ended their attack, Blunt said. He credited the changes in the spread of information including the popularity of the social media for the rapid shift in public opinion. A national energy tax would especially impact Missourians where 85 percent of the utilities are coal-based, he said.
Blunt admitted that the use of coal does put CO2 in the air. To penalize and restructure utilities that encourage investors would be silly, he said. Instead a way has to be found, he said, to put CO2 back into the ground.
If the cost of utilities skyrockets, Noranda Aluminum, Inc. of New Madrid, MO announced that they would leave the country--they already are talking to Mexican officials who don't seem to care about CO2 levels, Blunt said, pragmatically adding that driving out a company would increase CO2 levels anyway, internationally.
In Congress 42 Democrats and all Republicans are against Cap & Trade, Blunt said. Their opposition is based upon where they live.