WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Travis Childers said Wednesday that he will not support the health care legislation headed for a historic vote in the House this week.
In a statement released by his office, the 1st District Democrat from Booneville said he will vote “no” on the 10-year, $1.2 trillion bill, H.R. 3962.
“I cannot vote for legislation with this big of a price tag in today’s economic climate,” he said. “I would also like to see legislation that contains stronger language to prohibit federal funding for abortion and provides equal access to care for individuals in rural communities.”
Childers’ statement came on the same day that officials, speaking anonymously, said the AARP was prepared to endorse the legislation today.
An endorsement from the seniors’ lobby was critical when then-President George W. Bush pushed the Medicare prescription drug benefit through a closely divided Congress in 2003.
House Democratic leaders hope it will work the same political magic for them as they strive to deliver on President Barack Obama’s signature issue.
Backing the House bill is a tricky move for AARP, which has 40 million members. Many retirees are concerned about cuts in Medicare payments to medical providers, which will be used to finance an expansion of health insurance coverage to millions of working families who now lack it.
Also, AARP says its membership is about evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and independents, meaning its endorsement in today’s highly politicized atmosphere could anger many members.
Floor votes on the House bill could come as early as this weekend. Asked Wednesday if Democratic leaders had the 218 needed for passage, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., responded: “We’re counting. We’re counting.”
Athough Childers said he will vote against the bill, he noted that health care legislation in the House “has come incredibly far from where it was when we began this discussion. But we need to get this legislation right, not just get it fast.”
He said the effort is still incomplete, because the Senate has yet to act on its bill and “we don’t know what the conference report – the final bill – will ultimately look like. It must be a common-sense plan that reflects Mississippi values.”
Last-minute changes to the legislation, released late Tuesday night, started a 72-hour legislative clock and cleared the way for votes as early as Saturday.
In a move aimed directly at health insurance companies, the revised House bill would launch a federal-state crackdown on what it terms “unjustified premium increases.” Insurers have sought above all to block creation of a government insurance plan, which happens to be the top legislative goal for liberals.
Under the bill, insurance companies would have to publicly disclose the justification for premium increases before they take effect. The federal Health and Human Services department would monitor patterns of premium increases, and could take action if the price hikes are out of line. The bill would also provide $1 billion to state insurance commissioners, allowing them to ramp up their own enforcement.
Democrats also strengthened a provision that would strip the industry of its decades-old exemption from federal antitrust laws.
Supporters said the tougher approach is needed to keep insurance companies from artificially boosting premiums in advance of the major reforms taking effect in 2013.
STATEMENT FOR CONGRESSMAN CHILDERS
Washington, DC – Congressman Travis Childers (MS-01) released the following statement regarding his upcoming vote on the House health care reform bill, H.R. 3962:
“Today, millions of hard-working Americans are suffering from soaring premiums that are increasing seven times faster than wages. Our country needs health care reform, and there is no one who wants to see the implementation of successful reform and lower premiums for individuals and families more than I do.
“However, for several reasons, I will vote ‘no’ on the House’s health care reform bill, H.R. 3962.
“First and foremost, I cannot vote for legislation with this big of a price tag in today’s economic climate. I would also like to see legislation that contains stronger language to prohibit federal funding for abortion and provides equal access to care for individuals in rural communities. My concerns in these areas have not been sufficiently addressed by this legislation.
“Health care reform legislation in the House has come incredibly far from where it was when we began this discussion. But we need to get this legislation right, not just get it fast.
“Potential reform is still a work in progress, and the House bill is only one of many steps that lie ahead before Congress votes on final legislation. The Senate has yet to act on its bill and we don’t know what the conference report – the final bill – will ultimately look like. It must be a commonsense plan that reflects Mississippi values.”
The Associated Press and Daily Journal reports