The following article was first sent to the NewNY23rd as a comment to “Rep. Reed’s Town Hall Hand-Outs Previewed“. It was written by Steve Beikirch
of Plattsburgh (Steuben), who attended the Barrington (Yates) Town Hall Meeting. It was reprinted as a article with Mr. Beikirch’s permission.
The following is the gist of what Tom Reed said at the Barrington Town Hall this past Saturday. I deliberately avoided including my own commentary so you can judge for yourself.
Questioner: Do you believe climate change manmade and that man contributes to it?
Reed: I stood on a resolution black and white that humans have contributed to climate change – yes. Now where will science come out in regards to is it 100% human-made. I’ve read scientific reports that say that. I don’t agree with that. We contribute to it – yes. Some people say that we are going to do it [protect the environment] 100%, zero contamination today or tomorrow. That is an unrealistic goal to have.
Questioner: Is that the argument you use to support fracking?
Reed: I believe hydraulic fracturing can be done safely and responsibly and that is part of the energy policy I supported. Some people say that we can’t have any natural gas development, we can’t have any oil development – just don’t subscribe to that. Moving forward, I would hope we would all have the American innovative spirit of whatever the issue is that is causing risk that we work on solving that risk as we deal with the all of the above energy policy.
One piece of legislation I forgot to talk about at the last town hall was the 21st Century Cures Bill. We passed in the House and Senate what we call the 21st Century Cures Bill. It does include the moon shot. It is the highlight of success of what we’ve been able to achieve here over the last month. It is to fund and prioritize research and development of cures at the 21st century level. Alzheimer’s gets priority funding and investment. FDA gets a reform to get more treatment out to the public quicker and more effectively. It also has some funding for opioids which is a crisis across America. In Cures we’ve dedicated new reforms in making mental health treatment available, accessible and making sure we’re addressing that appropriately.
Obviously the other issue of the day is the election. We are going into a new administration. We have been participating in that process. We are with the transition team. We are working with the President –elect and their executive team. The priority there has been to build the new administration. What they have been focusing on is meeting people. You’re obviously hearing about the cabinet picks. There’s about 4,500 plus or minus additional positions we are going through the process filling.
Two areas that we are going to be heavily involved in immediately being on the committee that has jurisdiction that deals with policy on a day to day basis is two-fold. Tax reform – we are going to fix the American tax code. That is going to happen in 2017 in my opinion. That will be later in 2017, more like the fall-winter when that can be lined up. As we deal with tax reform, what I am guided by is that we’re going to simplify it, we’re going to make it fair and we’re going to make it competitive for the 21st century. On the individual side, having fewer deductions. There are seven rate brackets now and taking that down to three and having limited deductions. We intend to keep mortgage and charitable deductions going forward. We’re going to something on the business side. The money that is trapped overseas is going to be a major area of revenue looked at to invest into American infrastructure.
The other issue that is more immediate in the first 100 to 200 days of the next administration starting now is how we are going to deal with Obama Care – the repeal and replacement. So I’m very interested in your input on that. We are clearly going to have a repeal initiative which is going to be part and parcel in how we tie the replacement package to it. So you have a repeal. Does it happen immediately? Is it delayed in effectiveness as the replacement is digested by the American people and give them time to maneuver to make decisions.
One of the things we are heavily focused on in regards to the health care replacement package is how do we get to the cost not necessarily the insurance but how do we get to the cost of health care. How do we get health care costs to go down. There are two approaches as I see it. There is government control, government mandate, Obamacare model. I’m with the other approach which is using market pressure from individuals and doctors to bring those costs down. We also have to have a conversation about end of life, hospice care. A lot of our healthcare dollars in my opinion are sometimes not spent for the best quality care.
Questioner: What are you going to stand for? Are you going to vote no for voucherizing Medicare? We paid into it all our lives and now they’re going to say “here’s a voucher – go buy your own insurance.
Reed: So first we have to be sure we are on common ground here. If you are advocating for me to do nothing – that we are not going to agree on.
Questioner: What did I just say? I want you to vote against vouchers.
Second questioner: At a past meeting you made a solemn pledge to the people in the room that you would be there for us in terms of Medicare and Social Security. You promised and pledged to us that those would be there for us. In January you’re going to repeal the tax on investments and income over $250,000 a year taking billions of dollars from Medicare and give it to rich people.
Reed: I’m making that pledge again today. I appreciate your position. Obviously I disagree you’re your assessment of our actions. What I’m here to tell you is if you are funding something that is not sustainable you can’t find enough money. The money you are referring to that you would have to tax is hard-working American taxpayers dollars not just the one percent. That math just doesn’t add up. It’s upside down. For three dollars in expenses there is one dollar coming in.
Questioner: So then where are you going to get the money for vouchers? You are going to spend less money and people are going to have the insurance coverage they had under Medicare.
Reed: When you say voucher, you’re talking about the insurance side of the equation. If you can attack the cost of health care and start bringing it down. I hope there are things we can agree on like malpractice reform. Making sure we catch waste and abuse in Medicare. There are things we can deploy on the administrative side that could catch overbillings and fraud. Now you get into the bigger issues like reimbursement models. Now to the voucher – what the voucher is doing is on the insurance side of the equation. Hopefully as health costs come down, insurance premiums will come down too. We’re hoping that we will have a vibrant reform that people will be able to take their voucher and compete in the health insurance program that allows you to select your plan as an individual.
Questioner: How much power do I have as an individual against an insurance company?
Reed: The insurance product is negotiated by millions of people across America.
Another Questioner: Nobody is going to insure someone who has severe health issues.
Questioner: Conservatives believe the government shouldn’t be involved in anything. You want to voucher Medicare and privatize Social Security. You wanted to do the same thing to the Post Office by forcing it to shut down by requiring that billions of dollars of payments to its pension program be paid up front.
Reed: We have to keep the insurance market in check. There are two ways to do that. Is there going to be a government agency that says this is what insurance premiums will be or are we going to try to make sure the oversight is there to empower individuals shop for various insurance policies that are out there.
Questioner: At this point, you in favor of voting for a voucher for Medicare. Is that correct?
Reed: I am in favor of changing the status quo and to stabilize Medicare. So if we are talking about “premium support” that is going to bring competition, I am in favor of that. If we are talking about getting health care costs under control by using market pressure, I am in favor of that. It’s not an A or B alternative. You got to do both.
Reed: The insurance reforms of Obamacare that I think will continue and go forward because it has broad bi-partisan support are the preexisting conditions, allowing parents to carry their children until age 26 and lifetime caps. But that’s going to add to the cost.
Questioner: What’s the timing on the repeal of Obamacare?
Reed: This is the debate that is being had right now. My opinion is that you will have a repeal vote sometime around March but repeal will be delayed in its effective date. At the same time as the repeal vote is going on the replacement package will be put on the table. Some people are in favor of doing it all at once and make it immediate in March. Some people say there should be a two-year delay. That seems to be reasonable.
Questioner: What you’re saying is that we could see a repeal as early as March but the effective date may coincide more closely to a replacement but we have to trust you.
Reed: The replacement will be part of the repeal package but the effectiveness will be delayed out.
Questioner: Are you willing to accept the insurance mandate?
Reed: I’m very hesitant to support mandating people to buy insurance. If we get the cost under control we won’t need to require a mandate.
Questioner: I he that you have an incredible amount of push-back from this. Right now with Medicare there is a 6% percent overhead, you have a low cost system that most Americans like. You’re going to put this in the hands of private industry that has 25% overhead. I don’t get the math.
Reed: I’m about trying to solve this problem. You’re like this is not a problem and to leave it alone. I don’t subscribe to that.
I know I wasn’t going to offer an opinion but let me just say this. Tom Reed is all about towing the GOP line. He gets flippant when questioned about what he sees needs to be done. He often accused questioners of being in favor of the “status quo” when it was obvious from my perspective that is not what people want. More than once he responded to criticism with “well what do you want me to do!”
Please stay engaged and let Reed know what is on your mind.