Friday, July 24, 2009

Argumentum Ad Nauseam And Mixed Messages

I missed out on Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers' telephone town hall last Wednesday. She did invite me to take part but since the answering machine kicked in she left an automated message repeating her "federal bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor" mantra. She is consistent, but then that's what the playbook calls for.

Yesterday, I received an email from her--I'm still on the list!--in which she copies an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal full of dire warnings about what they refer to as both the Obama health plan and the health plan passed by the House. She passes the opinion piece, which does not have an author's name attached, as if it's a piece of accurate reportage. Here's a snippet.

The House bill says that after a five-year grace period all Erisa insurance offerings will have to win government approval—both by the Department of Labor and a new “health choices commissioner” who will set federal standards for what is an acceptable health plan. This commissar—er, commissioner—can fine employers that don’t comply and even has “suspension of enrollment” powers for plans that he or she has vetoed, until “satisfied that the basis for such determination has been corrected and is not likely to recur.”

That "commissar" reference tells me just how objective the author(s) is/are. The claim is that ERISA will be repealed. The ERISA arena of law is a very complex but you can find out more about it's effect and role in health care reform here and here. Feel free to check out a little of ERISA's history. While I'm at it, here's a response to the WSJ's claims.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers is kind enough to provide the entire 1018 page draft health care reform legislation on her web site so I took a crack at it. I found the quoted material in the WSJ op-ed but I didn't come away with the same sense of dread and gloom. Maybe if I wore some socialism glasses.

ERISA regulates the administration of private employer-sponsored benefits including health insurance offered by an employer. It was enacted in an effort to protect participants in employee pension and benefit plans and their beneficiaries from abuses by those who invest and manage such plans. Essentially the federal government exercises its authority to preempt state regulation of the administration of private employer-sponsored health plans, which prevents the states from enforcing laws interfering with ERISA. Without legislating exemptions to ERISA, any states wishing to experiment with health care reform would be hamstrung.

So if the states wanted to try their own single-payer option, an amendment Cathy McMorris Rodgers supports, Congress would have to legislate exemptions to ERISA. And Cathy McMorris Rodgers certainly let us know how she feels about ERISA going away.

I think.

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