As President Barack Obama made his health care speech Wednesday night, U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas was watching for signs of compromise.
“I hope he will announce he is backing away from the bill as proposed in the House. The reason is my constituents told me in the strongest of tones, by overwhelming margins, they don’t want the federal government taking over health care in this country,” Lucas said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is insisting a public or government option be in the bill or she will not allow it a House vote, he said. However, after the August recess he does not think there are votes in the House to pass it.
“If he (Obama) backs away from the public option, it may pass,” he said.
Lucas prefers a concept by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is a medical doctor. That proposal establishes a tax credit similar to the earned income credit, where the refund can be used to purchase health care. Lucas is aware some people cannot afford health care and cannot access it, but the bill in the U.S. House does more harm than good, he said. It also is projected to cost $1.6 trillion, which Lucas said the United States cannot afford.
Even if Obama proceeds with his current proposal, but without a public option, Lucas will still vote against it. He said it could be forced through the House, but not the Senate.
“I won’t vote for the present version of the bill and I don’t believe it will get to his desk,” he said.
One of the health care problems that has not been addressed, according to Lucas, is tort reform. The legal issues force the costs of medical care up because doctors and hospitals order more tests than necessary because they want to avoid lawsuits. He admitted there needs to be more transparency in the industry and more competition that will improve efficiency. He has not found any of those proposals in the present House bill. Lucas said the Senate will put the final stamp on the health care bill and he does not think there are enough votes to pass it as it stands.
The House of Representatives voted the bill out of committee, but could not pass it before Congress recessed for the August vacation. The U.S. Senate still is discussing the bill in the finance committee where a gang of conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, have held up the bill.
“This is where the president decides his own domestic agenda’s fate. If he remains hard with the Pelosi and Waxman bill, it won’t succeed. If he is willing to compromise, he might get something passed. He decides his own fate tonight with his words,” Lucas said.
Following Obama’s health care reform speech, Lucas shared his reaction to the address.
“If there is one thing that I heard loud and clear from my constituents during the 18 town halls I held throughout my district in August, it is that they dissatisfied with the pieces of health care legislation currently before Congress. Yet, after listening to the president’s speech this evening, it has become clear that he plans to continue to disregard what the American people want and push for government-run health care,” said Lucas. “We need to get back to the drawing board on health care reform. There are legitimate needs when it comes to health care reform – cost, access and a solution for the millions of uninsured Americans – but we need to focus on improving the efficiency of the system we already have in place. Forcing the unpopular and controversial public option without bipartisan support on an unwilling public is not the way to make long-term, successful law.”