WASHINGTON — As House Democratic leaders continued to hunt for votes on sweeping health care legislation, a congressional committee reported Wednesday that the bill would improve coverage for nearly 2 million Oklahomans.
It also would provide tax credits to almost 1 million families and 80,000 small businesses in the state and improve Medicare for 582,000 seniors.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee released estimates — based on data from the Census bureau, the Congressional Budget Office and other federal agencies and departments — of how the bill would benefit people in all 435 of the nation’s congressional districts.
According to the committee, 135,000 uninsured people in Rep. Dan Boren’s district would get coverage if the bill is passed and 19 community health centers would get millions more dollars in federal aid.
But Boren, the only Democrat in the Oklahoma congressional delegation, remained firmly opposed to the bill on Wednesday and wasn’t even being lobbied by Democrats trying to get 216 votes for the bill passed by the Senate and a package of changes to the legislation.
Boren, D-Muskogee, said Wednesday, "I think everyone is in agreement that access and affordability of health care is a large problem both in my district and across America. The question is how do we address it?
"I think the worst way to deal with these challenges is to raise taxes on individuals, impose job killing mandates on small businesses and cut seniors’ Medicare Advantage benefits. That is what this legislation will do and it is also what this analysis fails to disclose.”
All four of the Oklahoma Republicans in the House plan to vote against the bill.
The committee figures show the bill would give tax credits to 206,000 families to purchase insurance and pay for health care in Rep. Mary Fallin’s district, which includes most of Oklahoma County. Moreover, the figures show 19,100 small businesses would get tax help to provide insurance to workers.
Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, said the report was "a last-minute attempt to put out propaganda to spin their government takeover of health care, which includes high deficit spending and tax increases.
"I don’t think there is a single member of Congress who doesn’t think there is a problem with America’s health care system,” she said. "But my constituents in the Fifth District of Oklahoma have said overwhelmingly that the prescription being offered by President (Barack) Obama and Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi is not the one they want.”
The committee analysis shows that the bill would improve Medicare — including providing more subsidies for prescription drugs — for 114,000 people in Rep. Tom Cole’s district, while also allowing 70,000 young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.
But Cole said Wednesday, "Chairman Waxman’s report conveniently neglects to mention the numerous new regulations and millions of dollars in taxes and debt with which Oklahomans will be saddled if the bill passes … Those who purchase insurance individually would see dramatic premium hikes.
"In addition, individuals would be forced to purchase insurance, as would small businesses that are struggling to survive. Finally, the state of Oklahoma would be forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to meet unfunded federal mandates in Medicaid.”
According to the committee, the bill would reduce by $86 million per year the uncompensated care that hospitals and others provide in Tulsa, while protecting 1,100 families from declaring bankruptcy because of health care costs.
Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, a member of the committee, said Democratic leaders were "playing loose with the truth because they don’t have the votes” to pass the bill.
"The fact is that their … government takeover of health care will cost over $1 trillion, raise premiums, raise taxes and cut seniors’ Medicare.”
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, scoffed at the committee’s claim that the bill is "fully paid for,” meaning that it wouldn’t add to the federal debt.
"With a statement like that included, how can Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee expect the American people to believe anything else written in this report?” Lucas said.
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