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Robert Bennett: Congress should reclaim its powers

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  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 19, 2013 4:47 a.m.

    Congress is so obsessed with doing nothing so that they can have clean hands next election, that yes, they had abdicated their role to the President. Power can not tolerate a vacuum. If someone refuses to take control, then someone else will take that control from them.

    Obamacare is a great example. We hear weeping and wailing from one side of the isle. The vote 40 times that they don't like what has been done. It was up to them in the first place to fix the problems that everyone acknowledged. But they choose inaction as the "safe" way out. When they didn't act, someone else did. And of course it ended up in an unbalanced one sided legislation.

    Leadership through abdication doesn't work. Voting no solves nothing. An active congress can be the engine for a leaner, more efficient, and more customer focused government. But they need to act, rather than grandstand and vote against everything.

    Just my opinion.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Aug. 19, 2013 4:58 a.m.

    "I am not defending Obamacare. I voted against it. I believe it will make our health care situation worse, not better. I would be delighted to see it replaced by something that makes more sense."

    And yet, as of this day, the GOP has STILL not penned replacement legislation. Yes, they have thrown out a tidbit here or there, but no actual proposed legislation. Big Difference.

    I think most people believe that the GOP would like to kill Obamacare and keep the status quo.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 19, 2013 7:54 a.m.

    JoeBlow. Maybe its because given its track record, the government has no business in the healthcare industry, the automobile industry, the post office industry or any other business. The government should mind its own business and keep its corrupt, inefficient and inept hands out of private businesses!

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Aug. 19, 2013 8:18 a.m.

    Mtnman,
    Post office? That is provided for in the constitution.

    "The government should mind its own business and keep its corrupt, inefficient and inept hands out of private businesses!"

    That would be very doable if businesses were not allowed to bribe our govt officials. And if business leaders went to jail for their corruption.

    If business would consistently act in an honorable, fair, and responsible way we would not need so many regulations.

    Do you think chemical plants would not dump toxic waste in rivers if the govt was not involved?

    Would hospitals allow people without insurance to die untreated if the govt (reagan) had not stepped in?

    Would bank act responsibly, or would they take our economy to its knees in pursuit of maximum profits?

    Leaving Business alone to do as it pleases would be disastrous.

    Certainly govt oversteps its bounds often. And it is just as likely to be an R as it is a D.

    Balance is the key.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 19, 2013 8:33 a.m.

    Joe Blow, If you want the government to have its hands in everything, you would love Cuba.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 19, 2013 8:41 a.m.

    And N.Korea. now there is a government run paradise!

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Aug. 19, 2013 9:12 a.m.

    This is the GOP's problem

    I like the FDA. Not everything about it. Not every regulation is good. But without it, business would kill lots of people to save a penny or to make another buck.

    I like the EPA. They do lots of good things. I don't agree with everything they do, but lots.

    How about we look to have SOME government intervention without screaming Communism or Socialism or even becoming Cuba?

    We can look to reform some of these agencies and strive to take advantage of what they do good and reduce the not so good.

    But alas, that is not todays GOP. They want to shut down all govt agencies without contemplating the consequences.

    It is that knee-jerk, all-or-nothing solution that scares off many people from that party of Reagan.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Aug. 19, 2013 9:25 a.m.

    Mr. Bennett, I too would be delighted to see ACA replaced by something that makes more sense. You had 18 years in Washington to accomplish that and did nothing. And that is the Republican answer: do nothing, while millions go uninsured, millions are bankrupted by the voracious insurance/healthcare industrial complex, and millions wait in ER's to get help for their crying children. If Republicans had an answer to all that, I imagine we would've heard more about it by now. But they don't. And you don't.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Aug. 19, 2013 9:39 a.m.

    "How about we look to have SOME government intervention without screaming Communism or Socialism or even becoming Cuba."
    Where is the line between government abuses and intervention? Now that is a discussion isn't it?

  • Mark B Eureka, CA
    Aug. 19, 2013 9:51 a.m.

    M-man is trying to distract by ignoring JB's legitimate questions and flying off into fantasy. No, we are NOT Cuba or North Korea, but neither are we Somalia, where business heroes are actually just the top suppliers of bribes.

    It's also a little surprising to see Bennett contradict the GOP plan of amassing executive branch power that was one of Cheney's proudest achievements. This was less than ten years ago. But the flip flop is easy to explain. The president is a (D), and so NOW Bennett pulls for Congressional power even though it is hopelessly split and incapable of meaningful action.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Aug. 19, 2013 10:26 a.m.

    Have to defend Bennett on one point. He and D-Senator Wyden did develop a healthcare plan. An article at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "An Examination of the Wyden-Bennett Health Reform Plan," lays it out. However, it didn't gain traction in Congress (or with the public), but it was a good faith effort.

    Bennett is also right about earmarks. I think most people thought earmarks were additional spending in and of themselves--not just directions on where the spending would go. Earmarks got a bad rap-- but in some cases they deserved it. For many years they served as tools which could be used to persuade legislators to vote for a bill that otherwise was distasteful. Rightly or wrongly they were often the grease that made the system work.

  • Joan Watson TWIN FALLS, ID
    Aug. 19, 2013 10:34 a.m.

    Actualy the power behind the power are the lobbyists....they are retired senators, and retired representatives, who now head the lobby political game in D.C. to revel in power and money - a lot of power and a lot of money.

  • Neanderthal Pheonix, AZ
    Aug. 19, 2013 10:52 a.m.

    @Irony Guy:
    "And that is the Republican answer: do nothing..."

    The Republicans tried their best to help construct the ACA but got overruled time and time again by the Democrats who, at the time, controlled both houses of Congress and, of course, the White House.

    "...while millions go uninsured..."

    Medicaid is available to the millions you claim go uninsured... provided they meet the income level. And if they have the dough, they can get health insurance but, for some reason, but choose not to.

    "...millions are bankrupted by the voracious insurance/healthcare industrial complex..."

    Bankruptcy is a function of where you wanna put your resources. If you'd rather have cable TV, an ipad, cell phone, eat out five nights a week, go on a vacation every year, etc., instead of purchasing health insurance then you can't blame others for your bankruptcy.

    "...and millions wait in ER's to get help for their crying children."

    There's plenty of free or reduced-cost health care facilities if you'd just bother to search.

    "If Republicans had an answer to all that, I imagine we would've heard more about it by now."

    You just did.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Aug. 19, 2013 11:04 a.m.

    Re:Neanderthal
    Although Medicaid covers some low-income adults, parent eligibility levels are below poverty in 34 states and childless adults are excluded from the program under federal rules. Eliminating the categorical exclusion of childless adults, increasing income eligibility levels and enhancing the federal financing available to support coverage for adults could enable Medicaid to cover more of the low-income uninsured and help establish a strong floor of coverage upon which additional expansion efforts could build.

    "Bankruptcy is a function of where you wanna put your resources. If you'd rather have cable TV, an ipad, cell phone, eat out five nights a week, go on a vacation every year, etc., instead of purchasing health insurance then you can't blame others for your bankruptcy."

    Does that describe the typical bankruptcy in UT, which ranks high in the U.S. in number of bankruptcies?

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 19, 2013 11:17 a.m.

    I agree Congress should reclaim it's powers, but not only on budgetary issues. They have become irrelevant for the most part. Because everybody of the President's party is a rubber-stamp for whatever he wants, and the other party is almost an automatic vote against whatever the President wants. They tend to give almost no thought to designing and considering good legislation. Their every move, their every thought, from the day after they are elected is only on 2 things:
    1. "How can I support my party" (not America or the people in the State they represent)
    2. "What can I do to get RE-Elected".

    Congress has no business holding hearings on steroids in baseball, bringing comedians to testify to them, etc. They need to stick to their business (supporting the Constitution and writing legislation that does that).

    They also need to be able to cross partisan lines more often. THEN they will become relevant again.

  • The Hammer lehi, utah
    Aug. 19, 2013 11:24 a.m.

    Neanderthal, I agree with you on most of what you say but our health system prior to Obamacare was broken. Millions of working poor could not get health insurance because it was too expensive and they couldn't even afford hdhp plans in case of a catastrophe because it costs them more than a car loan each month. These costs did cause them to make decisions but paying bills (not eating out or cable tv or whatever else you imagine) trumped that.

    Most plans for the working poor cost between $400-$600 even with the subsidy tax break to the employer. The working poor can’t afford these plans didn't qualify for any Medicaid in most states and couldn't afford any health coverage because of how outrageous the cost is. With health costs rising higher each year and most people having limited access to healthcare it was becoming a terrible burden on young families and working poor who were having children or got a serious health problem.

    Republicans could have and should have solved this problem when they had power but they chose not to and hence they lost power because they failed to lead on the issue.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Aug. 19, 2013 12:28 p.m.

    A former Republican operative in Georgia who was diagnosed with cancer revealed last week that his medical struggles have made him a supporter of the new federal health care law known as "Obamacare."

    Clint Murphy, who worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and Karen Handel's 2010 Georgia gubernatorial bid, wrote that opponents to Obamacare are taking a position that's at odds with his best interest.

    When you say you're against it, you're saying that you don't want people like me to have health insurance," he wrote, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Murphy was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2000 but, after four rounds of chemotherapy (covered by his insurance), it had gone into remission by 2004. He wasn't in the clear quite though. Because his sleep apnea qualifies as a "pre-existing condition," Murphy currently has no insurance.

    Murphy said he will enter Georgia's health insurance exchange when it opens in 2014. He doesn't think Obamacare is perfect, but said that Republicans "are not even participating in the process" to suggest improvements.

    We have people treating government like a Broadway play, like it is some sort of entertainment, he told the Journal-Constitution.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 19, 2013 1:23 p.m.

    To those of you who think we just need to re-tool the ACA, you are wrong. We need to dump the ACA, and eliminate many of the mandates imposed on health insruance companies. In other words, the problems that people have with insurance companies have to do primarily with government mandates.

    Those of you who are worried about the pre-existing conditions that some people have, that used to be handled by the companies having waiting periods before those conditions would be covered. People were not denied insurance, the waiting periods were often waived for people that had previously carried insurance.

    The government is the problem, and getting the government more involved will not fix it either.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 19, 2013 1:34 p.m.

    "Those of you who are worried about the pre-existing conditions that some people have, that used to be handled by the companies having waiting periods before those conditions would be covered. People were not denied insurance, the waiting periods were often waived for people that had previously carried insurance."

    This statement is just plain false. There are many insurance carries that if your spouse has had breast cancer... they are disqualified. We had a young lady in our ward, who moved to Utah and was actually featured in an article by the Deseret News that has Cystic fibrosis - who when she was married was disqualified from getting her own insurance. They had to become poor enough to be covered by Medicaid in order to get coverage. The ADA helps... it has many valid parts to it.

    Fine, ripe it up.... burn it... throw it away.... but before you do that.... tell us what will REPLACE it. Nothing is not an answer.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 19, 2013 1:59 p.m.

    To "UtahBlueDevil" that is a lie. In Utah, that young lady would have qualified for the HIPUtah program, which is a private insurance exchange supplemented by the state for the poor and more importantly it covers people who are deemed uninsurable. There are similar programs in Colorado, Texas, Indiana, and many other states.

    She could have obtained insurance, but apparently didn't look very hard for it.

    The ACA did nothing for people with uninsurable conditions other than to make insurance cost more for everybody else.

    The ACA should be replaced with a deregulation bill that would stop the fascism set up by the ACA.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Aug. 19, 2013 2:01 p.m.

    Questions for Mr. Bennett:
    I think most people would agree that Congress is simply not functioning.

    I would like to know how your schedule as Senator evolved from when you first were elected until your last term in office? How much of your time was spent developing, debating, amending and passing bills then and now? How much time did you spend in Washington--how long was the work week? How much time did you spend tied to fund raising? How much time did you spend with members of the opposing party either conducting business or socially?

    re:RedShirt
    "The Commonwealth Fund reported that in a survey of individuals who tried to buy such coverage between 2004-2007, 47% of those with health problems said they were either denied coverage, charged a higher premium or had some coverage excluded because of preexisting conditions. 26% of those without a health problem reported the same thing.

    "In most states, it’s really challenging to get a policy if you have any kind of preexisting condition," says Sara Collins, a V.P. at The Commonwealth Fund. Even a minor ailment like asthma can cause someone on the individual market to be denied.
    (Factcheck)

  • The Hammer lehi, utah
    Aug. 19, 2013 2:11 p.m.

    The ACA is poorly conceived but when libertarians like yourself don’t come up with a plan to change how the health insurance industry is regulated to solve the problems that exist, the people will vote you out of power and you lose the legislative power to correct the problem.

    What sad is that you don’t want to admit there was and is a problem for the working poor in affording healthcare. Currently every group in the US receives some form of subsidy from the government (union, Corporate, small business groups, disabled, destitute, seniors) except the working poor, and people with preexisting conditions. Please see my post above as it explains the reality of their situation.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 19, 2013 2:42 p.m.

    IMO Congress should re-assert themselves as a CO-equal branch of government (EQUAL to the Executive Branch, not subservient to the Executive Branch). The way the founding fathers wanted it to be.

    The founding fathers really really really didn't want one man (a king), or one party, to be able to control everything. They abhorred that. That was the reason for Congress. But now our modern Congress is just loyal to their party, and their Potus, not to the people, or the States they were elected to represent in Washington. They only represent their PARTY now (both sides).

    If Congress is going to make a move back towards relevance... they need to go back to the fundamental intent of the Constitution (and there is about 50% of the population out there today that doesn't want that to happen).

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 19, 2013 3:13 p.m.

    Reshirt.... HIPutah is a government plea. Just like ACA. It is not private insurance.

    :"...the state established the Utah Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool (HIPUtah) to specifically address the problem of people with serious medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses, that made them unable to obtain health insurance at any price."

    You claimed "companies" Those of you who are worried about the pre-existing conditions that some people have, that used to be handled by the companies having waiting periods before those conditions would be covered. The above HIPAUtah statement clearly states that there was a population that could not "obtain insurance at any price".

    1) it is clear that private insurers were not covering everyone - or the State of Utah lied in the above quote

    2) the only way people could get coverage was through government programs - like the one you quote.... which "Effective July 1, 2013, operation of the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), known in Utah as Federal-HIPUtah, will transition to the federal PCIP program as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services. "

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 19, 2013 3:44 p.m.

    To "Truthseeker" since you don't want to look at the HIPUtah program, or other similar programs among the states, here is what HIPUtah claims:

    "HIPUtah's mission is to provide a health insurance program for uninsurable individuals that provides access to quality healthcare and is to be administered on a fiscally sound basis."

    It gets better, they state that the only people disqualified from HIPUtah "If an applicant is eligible for coverage in the private market, the applicant is not eligible for HIPUtah unless the applicant is HIPAA eligible." In other words, the uninsured are the main body of people to be accepted for HIPUtah.

    Yes some people cannot get into the standard insurance pools, but again, I have given you solid proof and examples of how prior to the ACA thse that were uninsurable had access to an insurance program.

    So again, why did we need the ACA? Were insurance prices too low before? Were insurance companies trying to figure out how to destroy their own businesses by entering a fascist pact with the Federal Government?

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Aug. 19, 2013 4:19 p.m.

    To "UtahBlueDevil" the HIPUtah plan was run by a private insurance company, not by the state. If people who were deemed uninsurable by the regular means were able to buy insurance through HIPUtah, doesn't that mean that they could buy insurance?

    So do you agree that the ACA did nothing more than destroy an already functioning insurance pool? Isn't it great to see the Feds taking something that was already working for Utah and make it so cumbersome that even the state government gave up trying to maintain it?

  • Alfred Pheonix, AZ
    Aug. 19, 2013 6:26 p.m.

    Sorry to say, Mr. Bennett, but you were part of the problem you describe. The Congress has been giving up power for years. So, you were there when it happened.

    You mention earmarks... All elements of appropriations passed by Congress should be earmarked. Otherwise the Executive Branch (President) can decide where to apply appropriated funds.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    Aug. 20, 2013 8:04 a.m.

    The problem Red Shirt is that only 27 states have high risk pools. Good on Utah for having one..however, the rates were very high, and the private insurers used it as a dumping ground for any risk, not just high risk. I know two people that were forced into the pool. One for a single melanoma that was cut out and gone, and another for indigestion..yes indigestion. Both had no other health issues at all. So to say that insurance companies need to cover everyone and all risks, which is what the ACA does, is actually pretty reasonable for a society. It's also a pretty decent business model for an industry that provides for life and death. Now rather than having risks separated and spread all over the economic map including some completely unaccounted for, it's all in one place, and with that done rates are actually increasing slower than anytime in recent history. Wow Baracks a pretty good businessman.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Aug. 20, 2013 9:41 a.m.

    To "pragmatistferlife" how is it reasonable that the ACA mandates that all companies cover everybody? The ACA was sold to us with the understanding that it would lower the cost of health insurance, yet just this mandate. See "The Free-Market Approach to Pre-Existing Conditions is Better Than Obamacare's" in Forbes where they explain that thanks to the mandate to cover everybody regardless of health history, the non-group premiums will rise 19% to 30%. However, that is just a side track.

    According to the 1996 HIPAA law insurers could not deny anybody in a group policy because of pre-existing conditions or health history. So, if you didn't have insurance, you just had to get a job that offered insurance and you were guaranteed coverage. The HIPAA law also required ALL states to create high risk pools. So, while 27 had a pool that you found, all states were required to have one, and most likely did have one to be in compliance with the 1996 HIPAA law. (On a side note most of the state run high risk pools were established before the federal mandate)

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    Aug. 20, 2013 3:54 p.m.

    Redshirt..first of all no one but the detractors believed that lowering the cost of health care actually meant rates would across the board go down. Lowering rates always meant lowering the rate of increases thereby lowering actual rates.

    Secondly, the Forbes prediction is absolutely meaningless without context. In New York where they had a high risk program that was very good, rates have actually come down by 50%. In Indiana that had virtually no state program, rates are going to go up 50%. However the new Indiana rates will still be the same as rates in other states that have had programs. Once again the ACA levels the playing field.

    Lastly, I don't believe you are correct when you say HIPPA required all states to have high risk pools. HIPPA regulated pre-existing conditions. Even amongst the states that had high risk pools eligibility varied, costs varied, and subsidies varied making some enormously expensive and some worthless.

    BTW, it's the law, and it's here to stay.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Aug. 20, 2013 4:30 p.m.

    To "pragmatistferlife" but the true cost of insurance has not dropped. Accoding to the CBO estimates to the impact on insurance companies, they find that the overall cost of an insurance policy increases under the ACA. This increase in cost is hidden by subsidies that lower the price a person pays, but does not lower the actual cost of the insurance.

    The requirement for there to be established high risk pools, that is a program that states could control or else they could give control over to the Feds. Per Section 1101 of PL 111-148 the states or federal government had to implement "Immediate access to insurance for uninsured individuals with a preexisting condition."

    Believe it or not, but that was the law. The ACA just made it prohibitive for states to efficiently run their own.

    So, why did we need the ACA since we already had laws on the books covering people with pre-existing conditions?

    Laws can be changed, so while it is here we will see suffering at the hands of the fascist policies that the ACA puts on insurance companies.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    Aug. 20, 2013 5:33 p.m.

    Redshirt, again, the lowering of costs is actually the lowering of cost increases which has occurred. Most states are seeing group plan increases at their lowest level in decades. The cost increase or decrease in high risk pools depends on the level of coverage you opt for and the previous circumstances.

    "why did we need the ACA since we already had laws on the books covering people with pre-existing conditions?" Simply put because of the massive inconsistencies in the coverage and the costs. Even in Utah the cost for pretty basic catastrophic insurance was horrendous. It was way out of the reach of common folk.
    Laws can be changed, so while it is here (It's here to stay sir, so there's no while it's here) we will see suffering at the hands of the fascist policies that the ACA puts on insurance. companies. Fascist policies..really, and here I thought you were going to make it..nope.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Aug. 21, 2013 6:59 a.m.

    To "pragmatistferlife" so you agree with me that the ACA has done nothing to make insurance more affordable. You realize that the idea of making insurance more affordable was the key in all of the arguments.

    You may not think the system if fascist, but it is. You have to realize that fascism is a system where the government controls businesses to the point where businesses are essentially run by the government.

    The ACA creates Risk Equalization Funds which are used by the government to take money from one insurance company and give it to another to make it so that the second company can co-exist in the insurance market.

    What I am confused about is why you keep saying the ACA is so great when you agree that it has done nothing to curb costs?

  • The Judge Kaysville, UT
    Aug. 23, 2013 8:44 p.m.

    Joe Blow,

    No one is saying there should be no regulation. But when regulation becomes stifling, we all suffer--witness the current fiasco of the coal industry, or the increased regulation of the trucking industry. Both of these cost consumers millions of dollars per year, with negligible effects on our quality of life.
    Regulation smothers economic growth. A little regulation protects society; a lot of regulation destroys it.