Democrats Block Thompson Amendment to Prevent Government Takeover of Insurance Markets

Jul 16, 2009

Washington, D.C.—As a member of the Education and Labor Committee, U.S. Representative Glenn `GT’ Thompson, R-Howard, today offered an amendment to the House Democrats’ health care bill to prevent the creation of a national health insurance exchange.

The Exchange is the government controlled health insurance marketplace in the Democrat bill that would dictate coverage requirements and create unprecedented levels of bureaucratic red tape for health care plans that serve families and small businesses.  His amendment failed on a party line vote with19 Republican votes in favor and 30 Democrat votes against.

During the debate, Thompson told the Committee:  “This Exchange will not have any real market checks and balances, in that the government creates the rules, markets a product, then acts as a referee. In fact, eventually nothing in the bill prohibits the Commissioner of the Exchange from automatically enrolling all eligible individuals in the government-run plan."
This Commissioner will be like the car czar, Thompson said after the hearing, “another unelected bureaucrat calling the shots with our health care and tax dollars.”

He explained further, “The Exchange would concentrate the sale and purchase of insurance coverage in one centralized location, run exclusively by the federal government.  Uninsured individuals would be eligible to enroll in an Exchange plan, as would those who have employer plans, which the government has otherwise deemed inadequate.”

Under the bill, uninsured and small businesses with less than 10 employees could purchase coverage the first year.  In the second year, small businesses with 11-20 employees could join and by the third year, larger employers could participate.
 
After the fifth year of the Exchange, employees in all business could enroll in plans and employers would be required to pay an 8 percent payroll tax in order to pay their employees’ Exchange costs, regardless of whether the employer already provides coverage.

Thompson said, “These businesses are our national economic engine, and will be paying on both ends—first for the costs of their current employee health plans and second an additional 8 percent to the government.  Can we really afford to place a burden on our small businesses during these trying times?”

Democrats maintain that you can keep your private health insurance under their program.  But the Exchange will have built-in advantages that will keep that from happening. 
An independent analysis by the Lewin Group says the number of people with private health insurance will decline by about 119 million people.

In a blow to the Democrat plan, the director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, testified at a Senate hearing today that the House bill will not lower health care costs.  Elmendorf said:

“In the legislation that has been reported we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount.  And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs.”

“This plan doesn’t lower health care costs, it creates a bureaucratic, government-run Exchange that will drive private plans out of the market, and it taxes small businesses.  This does not meet the criteria I have set for health care that includes, better access, quality, affordability and choice,” said Thompson.

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