Montana’s U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said waiting on the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision on health care reform is complicating his life in more ways than just deciding whether parts of the law are constitutional — or good policy — or not.
Rehberg said that because four possible results could come from the ruling — essentially doubled by the question of whether cuts will be forced by sequestration — he has to prepare a series of budget proposals in the Appropriations Committee subcommittee he chairs, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, to present almost immediately after the Supreme Court issues its ruling.
“So, it’s made my life a little more complicated than normally, ” he said. “Because, normally, when you put an appropriations bill together you don’t have some unanswered questions going into the crafting of the bill. ”
Rehberg made his comments during an interview with the Havre Daily News Thursday before he had to leave for another engagement.
Because the Supreme Court has been asked to rule on the mandate that people buy health insurance and on the expansion of Medicaid in the reform, four outcomes are possible. It could leave both in place, call both unconstitutional, or keep one while removing the other.
He said he wants people to slow down and take a closer look at the reform plan, and to wait until the Supreme Court makes its ruling. Then people can see how that will impact Medicare and other programs before taking action.
That, he said, and the impact of sequestration, is why he was one of a handful of Republicans who opposed the budget proposals of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in 2011 and this year.
“You have no idea what the scenario is going to be, and all you’re going to do is, one, confuse the seniors or the public, and frighten them, because there’s so much uncertainty, ” Rehberg said. “That’s why I said now is not the time. ”
He said he wants to have an open discussion on issues in the President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan he said are generally being ignored.
“Let’s have an honest discussion of the president’s health care reform, which didn’t reform health care, it just added people to a failing system, ” Rehberg said.
The two main items, he said are not being discussed, are that the president’s reform cuts $500 billion from Medicare, and creates two new entitlements — an expansion of Medicaid and subsidies to pay for health insurance coverage — at a time of recession and the need to cut spending.
“Talk about a huge reprioritization of spending in this country, ” he said.
Advocates of the reform package say parts of it such as expanding Medicaid and expanding the number of people with private coverage, are what will create savings in the long run, reducing the pace of increased medical and insurance costs. That also will result in reductions in the federal deficit, they say.
Supporters of the president’s reform — and Pulitzer-prize winning PolitiFact.com, a fact-checking service run by a group of independent, nonpartisan news organizations — say the reform bill does not cut Medicare, but attempts to reduce future increased costs by reducing expenses in areas such as waste and fraud.
Current and future benefits to recipients will not be cut; in fact, supporters say, benefits will be strengthened under the reform.
Rehberg’s first response to the request he address that claim was that the Democrats are making false claims about how much the reduction in cost will reduce the deficit.
“They’re double counting, ” he said. “You can’t count it as income and you can’t then count as savings, which is what they’re doing. ...
“You can’t double count, you can’t use the five hundred (billion) dollar reduction as both a savings and income, ” he added. “It’s not honest. ”
Asked again whether the $500 billion is in cuts or in reduction of future growth, Rehberg said he doubts the Democrats can find the savings. He cited $124 billion lost annually to Social Security payments made to dead recipients.
He added that the estimated costs of the government solution — the health care reform, as opposed to using a private, free-market solution — already is increasing in estimated costs.
“When the Democrats or administration tells you, ‘Trust us, this will work, we’ll find the waste, the fraud and the abuse, ’ really, really. Are you kidding me? … ” he asked. “Maybe we need to look outside of government for some of our solutions. Frankly, when they tell they are going to find … the five hundred billion dollars I’m not sure I believe them, because I can’t figure out the one hundred and twenty-four billion dollars a year in improper payments already. ”
Rehberg: Give tax credit for healthy living
U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., took time to tour a Havre-area health club Thursday, saying it gave him an opportunity to both talk to a local small-business owner and to look into how healthy living could impact health care reform.
Rehberg toured The Zoo Health Club at the Holiday Village Mall before going to an agricultural forum later in the afternoon.
He said in a morning interview that he believes — and argued during the debate on President Barack Obama’s health care reform — that encouraging people to live healthy lives, perhaps with tax credits, would reduce the cost of health care to the nation.
“If you don’t smoke, you ought to be able to take one thousand five hundred dollars off your taxes, ” he said as an example. “We can use our tax code to create incentives to help us lessen our cost in Medicare. ”
Rehberg said that corporations can deduct the cost of paying for their employees’ memberships in health clubs, but individuals and small businesses cannot.
Rather than punishing the taxpayers by forcing them to pay for health problems when people turn 65 and start receiving Medicare benefits, Rehberg said, the government should create an incentive for people to have a healthier life once they are 65 by their being able to “cut a little something from their taxes along the way. ”
Rehberg is opposing Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in the November elections.