Last week, the Concord Monitor denounced former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien for comparing health care reform to the Fugitive Slave Act, calling his statement “despicable” and “nothing short of obscene.” O’Brien answered with an op-ed supposedly rebutting the editorial. Monitor columnist Katy Burns summarizes his “exceptionally incoherent” response:
Near as I could tell, he cited a piece on Breitbart.com to argue that, somehow, all members of the “Doctrinaire Left” are political and philosophical descendants of South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun. You remember Calhoun, surely, from your American history class. Oh, yes, he also died in 1850.
And as political descendants of Calhoun, a fiery defender of slavery and a notorious racist (as were a lot of white Americans of his day), today’s “Left,” defined broadly enough to include all but the extreme right-wing fringe, are universally united in a long-standing desire to keep black Americans in perpetual servitude. Or so this crackpot theory goes.
This, presumably, includes the current (coincidentally) black president of the United States, Barack Obama.
The speech by former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien in which he compared federal health care reform to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a “despicable argument,” write the editors of the Concord Monitor:
The [Slave Act] compelled American citizens to assist in the capture of runaway slaves. It denied slaves the right to a jury trial and increased the penalty for interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to $1,000 (about $27,000 today) and six months in jail. … In many cases, legally free blacks were rounded up in northern states as alleged fugitives and dragged into slavery in the South.
The federal health care law is not perfect. No doubt there will be complications as the most dramatic portions take effect. No doubt there will be room for improvement. But its purpose is to give Americans that which is available in most of the rest of the industrialized world: the assurance that if they get sick, they will have access to decent health care at an affordable price.
To compare that to a law intended to uphold the rights of whites to hold blacks as chattel is nothing short of obscene.
Former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien, who is campaigning to unseat Second District Congresswoman Ann Kuster, today compared health care reform to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The pre-Civil War legislation punished anyone who helped runaway slaves and required they be returned to their masters:
And what is Obamacare? It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to slave states.
O’Brien’s remarks at a rally organized by the New Hampshire chapter of Americans for Prosperity were captured on video by Granite State Progress.
As Republican lawmakers fight expanding Medicaid for the working poor, state officials have quietly taken advantage of another provision in the Affordable Care Act that increases Medicaid coverage for preventive services. The approved services include screening for abnormal conditions and disease as well as behavioral counseling.
Under health care reform, preventive services must be covered for new Medicaid participants but states can choose whether to also cover current participants. States expanding coverage will receive a one percent increase in the rate the federal government currently pays for preventative services.
Governing reports the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved New Hampshire’s plan to cover current participants, one of just three states to receive the approval.
Yesterday, Gov. Maggie Hassan sent a letter to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services declaring the state’s intent to pursue a federal-state partnership health benefit exchange.
“I do not believe it is in the best interest of our people to allow the federal government to impose a one-size-fits-all exchange on New Hampshire,” she explained.
The state is prevented from establishing its own exchange, where consumers will compare and purchase insurance plans, due to a 2012 state law that prohibits it.
Free Stater and former state Rep. Andrew Manuse was the prime sponsor of that law, House Bill 1297. He was convinced that if all the states ceded their regulatory authority to the federal government, it would lead to repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Today, Manuse admits that his plan is in shambles. Congress is not going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he concedes. “God help us all:”
Elections have consequences. This partnership exchange will be the absolute worst consequence of electing a Democratic House and governor in 2012.
I fought for four years to kill Obamacare, including two in the House that resulted in the passage of HB 1297 (2012) and the prohibition of a state exchange. This partnership exchange is better than a state exchange, but I fear it will not have the desired effect of forcing the Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with true free-market reforms….
It saddens me greatly to watch my state go down this road, but the voters have spoken, and they will get what they voted for, God help us all!
Writing in the Portsmouth Herald, former editor Shir Haberman preemptively demonizes state House Democrats for a lack of bipartisanship before the session even begins:
The now Democratic-controlled House should not allow federal control of the health care exchanges through which many will get coverage under Obamacare just because a Democratic president is pushing for it, if the state can do it better. Our representatives should continue to look hard and long at any future attempts by the federal government to insinuate itself into the workings of our state and not simply accept those attempts because the man at the top of the federal pyramid happens to be a Democrat.
This is wrong on so many levels. A Democratic president is not “pushing” for federal control of health care exchanges. In fact, the Affordable Care Act encourages states to create a state-run exchange and provides federal grants to fund the planning and implementation.
Ideologically-driven House Republicans were so opposed to federal health care reform that they passed legislation forbidding the state from implementing a state-based exchange and thereby ceded insurance regulatory authority to the federal government.
House Bill 601 ordered the state Insurance Commissioner to return $666,000 in unused funds from the Exchange Planning grant. House Bill 1297 went further and explicitly prohibited the state from participating in a state exchange.
It is now too late now for New Hampshire to set up a state-based exchange to be operational by January 1, 2014, but the state can still request grant funding and create a state-based exchange in the future.
Perhaps Republicans lawmakers will now heed Haberman’s plea “to find common ground” and will join Democrats to undo the effects of this Republican obstructionism.
One Republican lawmaker, Rep. David Hess, has filed legislation to repeal the ban and establish a state-based exchange. Hess concedes Republicans “got caught up in our own ideological hang-ups last session.”
The New Hampshire Academy of Family Physicians represents the majority of the state’s family doctors. The organization’s president, Dr. Robert Kiefner, wrote a letter to the editor of the Portsmouth Herald this summer explaining the doctors’ support for health care reform:
We have all borne witness to the scenario in which patients have not been able to obtain medical care in a timely manner for lack of insurance. This has not only been the driver for more costly interventions down the road but, tragically, also premature death and disability.
The Affordable Care Act, while an imperfect piece of legislation, will significantly reduce the number of citizens without access to health care and represents true progress toward enhancing the health and financial security of our patients.
In his letter and in an email to state legislators and government officials, Kiefner urged the state to implement an insurance exchange and expand Medicaid in order to “improve access to more reasonably priced insurance alternatives.”
Former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien responded by firing off an angry email accusing the organization (which he mistakenly identified as the New Hampshire Medical Society) of “obstinate stupidity” and of being “driven by hopes of immediate financial gain for its members.”
He posted the message on Facebook:
You use the word bizarre in your letter to describe the efforts of the past legislature to avoid participating in the fiscal debacle that will come out of Washington. The kindest definition of bizarre is unusual. In fact, it is your organization’s position, driven by hopes of immediate financial gain for its members, that seeks to have New Hampshire do the unusual. …
Rather than being yet more supplicants for a greater share of this unsustainable spending and rather than adding to the collective obstinate stupidity that refuses to deal with this reality, why doesn’t your organization instead look at where we are as a country and say, we must stop and you are willing to shoulder your own share of responsibility to do so?
We got caught up in our own ideological hang-ups last session. I can’t see a Republican who would rather see the federal government force-feed us with an off-the-shelf plan that would be used in California.”
— Republican state Rep. David Hess, on legislation passed last session that prohibits New Hampshire from implementing a state-run health insurance exchange. Hess has filed legislation to repeal the ban and establish a state-based exchange.
Hospitals are required to provide care to anyone needing emergency health care regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. In tonight’s 1st District Congressional debate between Rep. Frank Guinta and Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, Guinta declared “that shouldn’t be the case.”
Giving literal meaning to his state’s “Live Free Or Die” motto, Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) was asked at a debate Thursday about a hypothetical 25-year-old who needs treatment in the emergency room but doesn’t have health insurance. Guinta’s said he opposed the requirement that hospitals should have to treat people who come in without insurance. “If you are 25 years old and you are choosing not to purchase insurance with the expectation of trying to get it free from the ER at Memorial,” Guinta said, “that shouldn’t be the case.”
Of course, Guinta also opposes the Affordable Care Act, which addresses this free-rider issue with the individual mandate. When the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, everyone will be required to purchase health insurance. Subsidies will be provided to those who need help with the premiums.
State House Speaker Bill O’Brien has been accused of being a bully, a tyrant and a dictator. Today he lived up to his reputation.
O’Brien today unceremoniously licked Rep. Kathleen Taylor off the committee that will oversee the state’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. Taylor, the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee’s lone House Democrat, was given no reason for her dismissal.
"The Committee will make recommendations for healthcare coverage — or not — for citizens with diabetes, heart disease, mental health and many other issues," explained Taylor. "It is obvious to me that Speaker O’Brien is working hard to not allow New Hampshire to implement an expansion of Medicaid benefits for our vulnerable citizens."
"The Speaker has taken an action to limit full public discussion and has removed an experienced voice from the table," complained House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli. “Once again the Speaker has demonstrated that he will not tolerate viewpoints that differ from his own opinion and he dismisses the representative voice of a significant segment of New Hampshire voters.”
"I’m sure voters will remember this Speaker’s actions when casting their votes in November," Norelli warned.
Just before the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, Gov. John Lynch signed legislation prohibiting the state from implementing one of its key provisions, a state health care exchange. Writing in the Portsmouth Herald, Executive Council candidate Bill Duncan says it’s not too late to reverse course.
There would be great advantages to setting up our own exchange to serve the needs of our own citizens. Most importantly, New Hampshire could have regulatory control over the insurance plans offered through the exchange. Our insurance commissioner could regulate benefit levels and eligibility. We could establish our own health care priorities, such as reforming how payments are made or development of “medical homes” and accountable care organizations.
But the Executive Council and Legislature have opted out of creating our own strategies and priorities. The result will be confusion for New Hampshire citizens, some purchasing insurance from the federal exchange and others purchasing insurance regulated by the state. We will have a jumble of differing policies for individuals and small businesses purchasing insurance.
New Hampshire is one of only three states to take this radical position. There is an opportunity to turn this around. The Obama administration has expressed a willingness to work with states like New Hampshire that have rejected participation so far, but change their policies to make the most of the Affordable Care Act. We should elect Executive Councilors and Legislators who will commit to doing that.