Republican radio address

For the weekend of August 15-16, 2009

Greetings, this is Josh Tardy, leader of the Republicans in the Maine House.

It’s not very often that the American people rise up against their own Congress, but the proposed government takeover of our health care system has done the trick. We’ve all seen the wild scenes at town hall meetings, where members of Congress are facing huge crowds of outraged citizens. For all its faults, we still have the best system in the world - the best doctors, the best hospitals and the best technology. Americans do not want to see that system destroyed by a government that seems to have gone rogue.

The big problem for Congress is that the citizens no longer trust them. Why should we? They have driven our nation to the brink of bankruptcy. We also have serious doubts about a president whose own budget will add $10 trillion to the national debt. The anger of the American people has been building for a long time, as they watch Congress pass bills that they don’t even read, bills that spend trillions of dollars. Now that folks are waking up, support for so-called Obamacare is dropping sharply. Most Americans now reject it. The Democrats have reacted to this rejection by slamming the concerned citizens at these town halls, calling them angry mobs, Nazis and political terrorists. One Democratic congressman, John Dingell, compared them to the Ku Klux Klan. But on our TV screens, we see only senior citizens, veterans and everyday Americans.

Clearly, we have entered the theater of the absurd, with lies and propaganda dominating the discourse. Just this week, President Obama told a town hall meeting in New Hampshire that his plan was supported by AARP – the American Association of Retired People. AARP officials quickly shot back with a press release saying they have not endorsed any plan. The president also said he does not favor a single-payer plan, where the government – and only the government – would totally control all health care in America. But we have the president on tape saying, on numerous occasions, that he wants a single-payer system. The president also refers constantly to “his” plan, but he doesn’t have a plan. He delegated the writing of a plan to Congress, to people like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The president has also said the government takeover of health care will not pose a financial burden to American taxpayers. But the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the House plan will cost more than $1 trillion, with no way to pay for it. A big tax increase on the middle class would be inevitable.

There are four health care plans in Congress right now. All four contain a provision for a so-called government option. Basically, the federal government would run a taxpayer-subsidized insurance program to handle the 47 million people who lack coverage. That group of people includes millions of illegal aliens, young people who choose not to buy insurance, and an estimated 10 million people who already qualify for Medicaid or Medicare but can’t be bothered to apply. The hard cases number around 10 million – folks who can’t get insurance because they have serious diseases or pre-existing conditions. But rather than deal with the problems of this relatively small group of people – about 3 percent of the population – the Congressional Democrats and the president are gung-ho to rip apart the entire system. When people claim that the ultimate goal is to put the whole population under the iron grip of government, they have a point.

If the House bill passes – the Pelosi bill – the feds will slash $500 billion from Medicare and install the government option, subsidized by taxpayers. The impact on the nation will be stunning. The country’s 1,300 private insurance companies will be unable to compete with the government plan. They will wither and die, as employers dump employees into the cheaper government option. Millions of Americans would lose their private coverage, and millions of insurance workers would lose their jobs. We’d end up with a single-payer system by default.

The impact on Maine would be catastrophic, according to an analysis by the Lewin Group, a highly respected health care policy firm. Of the estimated 731,000 Maine residents with private insurance, 72 percent would transition to the government option. Hospitals in Maine could see their annual income fall by nearly $700 million, with their total margins dropping to negative 12 percent. This huge loss in hospital income would stem from the Medicare-based payments in the public plan, which are just 54 percent of private insurance payments. In the face of such horrendous economics, hospitals here would begin to close. And 32 percent of Maine’s uninsured population would still lack coverage.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation who support the Pelosi plan, such as Congresswoman Pingree, need to answer some questions. How can our government responsibly take on a trillion-dollar health care debt now? How does the proposed plan bring down costs while at the same time promising no limits on care and artificial caps on premiums? And why did her party vote to exempt Congress from Obamacare?

This is Josh Tardy. Thank you for listening.