Graying Matter

Politics and Technology.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Congressman Holt Responds

Below is the Honorable Congressman Rush Holt's response to my email, received some weeks ago. I am delighted that he took the time and resources to reply with such a thorough response, though I am sure much of the content was from prepared material. I believe Rep. Holt to be sincere, even though I may disagree with him on policies and issues.

Dear Mr. Consorti:

Thank you for contacting me regarding health insurance reform. I appreciate hearing from you and I apologize for the delay in my reply.

As the spouse of a physician, I have heard the problems occurring at the front-lines of our health care system. In 2009. health care spending throughout the U.S. is projected to reach $8,160 per person, according to the National Health Expenditure Survey. This should be more than sufficient to provide excellent care for everyone, yet 16 percent of New Jerseyans lacked insurance in 2007, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and family insurance premiums are projected to rise from $14,000 in 2009 to $24,000 in 2019, based on a study from the Center for American Progress. In a country where we are projected to spend 18 percent of our Gross Domestic Product ($2.6 trillion) this year on health care, we can do better.

The House of Representatives is currently considering H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act, which seeks to reduce health costs, increase coverage, and improve health care quality. This bill was considered by the three House of Representatives committees that oversee health policies: the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, and the Education and Labor Committee, on which I serve. H.R. 3200 now awaits consideration by the entire House of Representatives. I will keep your thoughts in mind as this bill progresses through the legislative process.

America's Affordable Health Choices Act would accomplish three objectives. First, the legislation would lead to stable health Gosts that will not threaten family finances by establishing several consumer protections for those purchasing private insurance. The bill would eliminate insurance benefit caps to ensure families do not have to worry about leaving the hospital with bills too big to pay because their benefits have run out. The bill would set an annual cap on out-of-pocket health expenses to eliminate cases where one disease forces a family into bankruptcy. According to a Congressional cOlumittee report, the legislation would prevent ll1edical bankruptcies that affected 460 families in Central New Jersey this past year.

Second, it would provide stable coverage for those between jobs or the self-employed by creating an insurance store, called an exchange, where they could get insurance at a group rate. Most of the policies in this insurance stofe would be private insurance (such as Blue Cross or Aetna), while one of the plans would be a non-profit plan, presumably administered by the government, and subject to the same requirements and regulations as the for-profit plans in the exchange. The bill also would eliminate the practice where patients with a pre-existing condition like diabetes or cancer or pregnancy cannot purchase insurance. According to a Congressional committee report, the bill would help 28,000 uninsured individuals in Central New Jersey gain access to affordable health insurance.

Third, the bill would strengthen Medicare by starting to pay physicians for treating the whole patient and by encouraging doctorsto coordinate a patient's medical care instead of paying for each aspirin or test. The legIslation would strengthen the long-term health of the Medicare trust fund by increasing the efficiency of the program, expanding its ability to fight waste, fraud, and abuse, and eliminating wasteful subsidies to private insurance companies. Further, the bill would improve the prescription drug benefit to provide real coverage for seniors by eliminating the so-called "doughnut hole."

While the bill would lead to other useful changes, such as increasing the number of primary care doctors and expanding the number of nurses, these are the principle elements of the House health reform bill.

I support the inclusion of a public health insurance plan in any reform proposals to lower costs and improve health care delivery. Under tl1e proposed legislation, Americans without health insurance and small businesses would be able to select a health insurance plan from an array of choices including private insurance plans and one or more publically-run
[sic] non-profit plans. A public plan would lower costs by increasing competition, as Americans in many regions ofthe country currently only have one or two insurance options available. A single insurance company controls more than half the insurance market in 16 states, while in New Jersey the top two companies control almost 60 percent of the market. The public plan would serve as a benchmark to encourage private plans to focus on providing value. A public plan also would provide a way to test innovative strategies to deliver higher-quality health care, such as increasing primary care and encouraging care focused on healthy outcomes of integrated treatments, eliminating the approach based on a long list of disconnected and sometimes unnecessary procedures.

I appreciate learning of your support for limiting medical malpractice claims. Medical liability legal reform has been added to H.R. 3200 by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) as an amendment in committee; and it may be addressed further in future drafts as the legislation moves forward. While there is certainly room to improve the medical malpractice process, it is surely not the primary re~son for escalating health care costs. States like Texas have passed strin,g,ent..limits on ,medical malpractice claims, yet cities like McAllen, Texas have some ofihe most expe.1hsive health care in the country. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that limits on malpractice claims would reduce health care spending by less than 0.5 percent of total health care spending. However, I recognize that the indirect effects of medical malpractice through defensive medicine practices concern many physicians.

Medical malpractice and tort law have always resided under the jurisdiction of state courts. Of course, everyone wants doctors to practice medicine at the highest standard, not defensively. Frivolous and excessive litigation do not benefit society. Yet, patients who are harmed by malpractice must be protected and treated fairly. Those are two countervailing interests, which I believe are addressed adequately in H.R. 3200.

I was pleased to work with my coll.~'agueson the\&:ducation and Labor Committee to strengthen the bill. I wrote an amendment that would expand online job training programs for health care workers, modeled after a successful program originating at Rutgers University. This amendment was adopted by the Education and Labor Committee. I also worked with my colleagues Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) and Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) to include language that allows affiliated small businesses to join together to purchase insurance. This would provide a valuable option in addition to the exchange for small businesses that are currently unable to find affordable health insurance.

Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. I look forward to hearing from you again about this or any other issue of concern.

Member of Congress

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Conversation Not To Have With A Director

"So our manager left to pursue other opportunities, after having screwed up our business. His leaving wasn't a shock; it was expected. I then pleaded and lobbied you to give me his job, because our outgoing manager was such idiot that letting one of his cronies be his successor would have been just like letting him stay and continue to do things the wrong way.

"Now I've had to make some changes without the support of the old manager's cronies. They don't like me, and they don't care that that is making our business continue to struggle. My changes are working, but just not fast enough to keep up with the pile of problems that are mounting. I inherited these problems from the last idiot manager who screwed things up for years, so it is not surprising that one year into my job things aren't turned around yet. The fact that his cronies won't support me is why things are so screwed up."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meh, I dunno. Why'd you ask me?

So I saw a report on about a couple of alleged stick-up men who were charged with possesion of an assault rifle. The picture in the article shows an AR-15 type of rifle, and helpfully labels it as a Colt. The problem is that it seems to look like any ol' AR-15 you can pick up in a gun shop in Jersey.

The article quotes the police as saying the rifle had two out of 5 characteristics that make it an assault weapon. So I was curious to see what that meant. A look at the State Police Firearms Information page states the following.

"Because the New Jersey State Police is not authorized to provide legal advice to private parties, you may wish to consult with independent legal counsel or conduct your own research."

It makes a reference to the office of the New Jersey State Attorney General as the source of "the" guidelines. So I went to the StAG site, and saw this.

Law enforcement officers should, whenever possible, attempt to be helpful and to respond to inquiries concerning particular firearms. Private citizens should also be encouraged to consult with their own attorneys and, where necessary, referred to the Firearms Unit of the Division of State Police.

Granted, the 5 characteristics of what the Executive Branch has decided makes a rifle "substantially identical" to an assault weapon are provided by the StAG, but it bugs me to see one state office point to another, who in turn merely shrugs its shoulders.

For reference, the StAG says the following about what makes a rifle "substantially identical" to an assault weapon.

A. semi-automatic rifle that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of the following:
a folding or telescoping stock;
a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
a bayonet mount;
a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and
a grenade launcher;

If I had to guess looking at the photo, these knuckleheads had a long pistol grip and a flash suppressor.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My email to Congressman Holt (D-NJ 12)

Congressman Holt,

I wish to express my opposition HR 3200, and any other bill that may create a "Public Health Option" or similar construct that would broaden government's involvement in the health care industry.

I strongly support, and urge the legislative prioritization of, tort reform and tax parity between employee-provided and individually obtained health insurance.

Meaningful tort reform should include a cap on non-economic damages, a limitation on attorney's fees, allowing consideration of "collateral sources" in measuring damages, and a mandate of periodic payment of damages.

Tax parity between employee-provided and individually obtained health insurance should be designed to make health insurance more affordable to individuals.


Jason B Consorti

Monday, August 10, 2009

Creepy Quote Of The Day

“I expect to be held responsible....But I don’t want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don’t mind cleaning up after them, but don’t do a lot of talking.

(From "Best of the Web", August 10, 2009)