By Shelli Dawdy
Typically the GiN “Deserving of Darts” feature articles lay out an issue and an assertion is made that some individual is indeed – deserving of a hail of darts. In this instance, I submit to you, the Nebraska citizen, tax payer, and voter, the decision regarding whether or not Nebraska’s First District Congressman, Jeff Fortenberry, is deserving of darts for recent remarks about repealing the health care law.
Representative Fortenberry appeared on the Thursday, October 28, “Drive Time Lincoln” KLIN radio show. The context of the interview is important. The show’s host Coby Mach, started Rep. Fortenberry’s interview with a reference to an interview he’d done with Iowa Congressman Steve King several days earlier (click HERE to listen).
In noting priorities for an upcoming Congress, Rep. King stated:
The necessity to repeal Obamacare. It just must be repealed, every single vestige of it. There’s no accommodation with this thing that can allow the — Nancy Pelosi or anyone else, to let’s just say, just repeal the most egregious aspects of it. No, it’s just all got to go.
Then, Coby Mach replied:
Congressman, when I have state senators — or uh — Congressmen on this program, the feeling, though, is that there really is no chance of repealing Obamacare. Do you feel that there is a chance?
Well, yes! Who ARE these people? There’s all kinds of chances to repeal Obamacare. One of the things that could defeat us is pessimism and I can lay out the path to do this. All we have to do is stand up and say I’ll stand up with you on this and we will get it done.
Rep. King went on in more detail about the steps that should be taken to ultimately repeal the law, fully acknowledging that President Obama would, of course, veto a repeal measure, but efforts cannot and should not stop there. The important point is to de-fund the law’s implementation and keep pushing on the issue through 2012. The whole effort should not end until there’s an election of a presidential candidate who pledges that their first act would be to sign a measure repealing the health care law.
If this unwavering position were to be adopted by all Congressmen, I would not be nearly as skeptical as I am about what a Republican majority in either or both the House or Senate would do once they take office in January.
My skepticism comes from a study of history, but many recent events do not enhance my outlook. At the top of the list is Fortenberry’s shape-shifting on the 10/28 local radio show (click HERE[1. If you prefer not to download either of the audio files referenced here, go to THIS KLIN page and scroll through the list of archived shows for the Fortenberry and King interviews.] to listen to the full interview, HERE to view a full transcript online, or HERE to download to your computer.). In response to Coby Mach’s report that Rep. King believed the health care law could be repealed, Rep. Fortenberry replied:
I think that would be a high hurdle to cross. I think the more likely scenario is that you are going to have a continued aggressive debate in the House about funding or not funding certain aspects of the implementation of this new health care law. And I think the reality of simply saying, “Hey, we need to start over. Here’s a better way to do it,” would be cleaner and preferable, and that would be what I’d like to see. But, in reality, the numbers won’t be there for that type of cleaner process. Instead, you’re going to probably, again, have a major fight, gridlock, over how to implement the plan, and there will be funding source fights, and that will block certain aspects of it.
Even more importantly, Fortenberry went on to make clear he likes some of the aspects that are being implemented and noted that reversal would be difficult and “perhaps, inappropriate“.
Now, again, there’s certain aspects of this reform that are already being implemented and that are helping fill some of the gaps — the brokenness in the health care market, and that would be very difficult to reverse and, perhaps, inappropriate. But packaged in a new health care reform that achieved more affordable access and options for small business and individuals and opened up competition, rather than stifling competition, and further focused on health and wellness to reduce costs, would be my preferred scenario. But we’ll have to see.
Fortenberry refers to “reasonable reforms”. Just what parts of Obamacare does Fortenberry consider reasonable?
There are some things that are being implemented right now, some reasonable reforms, such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ policies up to 26. That’s a reform that I would support as it brings new people into the health insurance pool. Taking caps off existing policies is important to certain families who are afflicted by very high cost conditions, such as hemophilia. And, by having insurance caps, it doesn’t save the system any money; it just forces families to move to (sic) job to job. So, those are some reasonable things there.
There are a number of problems with Rep. Fortenberry’s position on these recently implemented requirements, not the least of which is ballooning costs. Of course, a number of the new requirements sound wonderful. The trouble is someone has to pay for them. It seems Rep. Fortenberry has overlooked the fact that insurance companies are businesses and businesses need to make money. Insurance companies cannot afford to stay in business and provide the required coverage without dramatically raising rates.
During the period of debate over the bill, opponents expressed concerns about the dramatic rate increases that would follow and, for some companies, the new requirements would mean that they would simply get out of the business of offering health care policies altogether. Another serious concern is that the rate increases would cause employers to stop offering health care coverage to their employees. In addition to these very practical problems, opponents expressed concerns that imposing very costly requirements on insurers was actually a back-channel means of moving towards a single-payer system.
The evidence has already begun to roll in that many concerns were absolutely valid; some insurance companies have decided to stop selling health coverage, scores of rate increase letters have been sent to Americans with individual policies, and large employers have announced they are considering dropping their employees’ health care coverage.
I have further concerns about Rep. Fortenberry’s expressed desire that government become “further focused on health and wellness to reduce costs”. Health and wellness is a wonderful thing, I just wonder what government’s got to do with it. Fortenberry is the Chair of the House’s Nutrition Sub-Committee. I am puzzled about why federal government even has such a committee and I wonder what that committee or the Congressman thinks it should do about focusing on my or any other American’s health and wellness. Will it use government’s powers to incentivize my personal conduct? In a world where government can dictate the contents of an insurance policy and impose a mandate to purchase insurance, it also seems conceivable that government would try to tell me what to eat and how to live, all in the name of promoting my health, of course.
Rep. Fortenberry talked about retaining parts of the law that he considered reasonable and arguing about whether or not to fund the remainder. Only tinkering with pieces of it means we will very likely miss many aspects of what is wrong with it, considering it’s length and complexity. I’m with Rep. King on this subject:
It just must be repealed, every single vestige of it.
It is apparent that Rep. Fortenberry is not in touch with either his own constituency or Americans in general. He has apparently not keyed into the level of opposition to the law.
I’ll repeat Rep. King’s reaction to Congressmen who state repealing the health care law is impossible:
Well yes! Who ARE these people? There’s all kinds of chances to repeal Obamacare. One of the things that could defeat us is pessimism…
It’s up to the people of Nebraska to determine the answer to the original question: Is Congressman Fortenberry deserving of darts for his position on repealing the law?
I, for one, firmly believe Rep. Fortenberry is deserving of a barrage of darts for never once mentioning the individual mandate included in this health care law. As one of his constituents, I am disturbed this unprecedented liberty grab doesn’t seem to bother the Congressman. It is a stark example of the fallout when elected officials lose sight of basic principles. If Rep. Fortenberry recognized the basic principle that it is unconstitutional for the government to require citizens to make a purchase, his course of action would be clear. There are few who disagree; the entire law rests on the individual mandate, it must stay in place or the whole scheme, dependent upon forcing everyone into the risk pool, collapses.
The Congressman’s contact information can be found on THIS GiN page.