The Pilot Light
Burr, Hagan Split
On Health Reform
North Carolina's two senators followed their party lines in voting on the health-care overhaul bill on Christmas Eve morning.
Democrat Kay Hagan voted for the bill, while Republican Richard Burr voted against it. The vote was 60-39.
This vote, along with the House action in the fall, marks a victory for President Obama, but the battle is far from over. The bill now faces a tough negotiation period as a conference committee irons out multiple and quite distinctive differences between the Senate bill and the House bill.
Hagan's office lost no time issuing a statement praising the Senate bill.
"Today, the Senate passed a health care bill that reduces costs, expands coverage and provides stability for North Carolina families," Hagan said. "It prevents insurance companies from taking away your coverage when you get sick or discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. The bill reduces the waste, fraud and abuse that currently exists in the delivery of care, and it will save our country money by decreasing the mounting federal deficit."
Republicans say the bill is too expensive and will take too long for the public to enjoy its benefits.
"Despite being marketed as a health-care reform bill, the legislation we voted on today is nothing more than a massive expansion of the federal government," Burr said in a statement. "We have already learned about some of the budget gimmicks employed to deceive the American public about the true cost of this bill, and I fear that in the months and years to come, we will learn more and more about its destructive and irreversible consequences. The only winner in this deal is the federal government."
Burr is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
POSITIVES - From the Democrats' point of view, the bill has aspects that will be immediately felt.
Hagan's office said the Senate bill would offer North Carolinians these benefits: 1.7 million people who do not now have health insurance will be able to access affordable coverage through a health insurance exchange; 951,000 North Carolinians could qualify for tax credits to help purchase insurance; 247,000 older people would experience a reduction in brand-name drug costs when they reach the "doughnut hole" in their Medicare drug coverage; 112,000 small businesses would be eligible for tax credit to make premiums more affordable, giving them the ability to offer insurance to employees.
She also said the bill would ensure preventive ervices with no co-pays and deductibles.
However, none of the benefits is a sure thing until the House and Senate bills are reconciled and the resulting bill is signed by the president. Insiders in the nation's capital predict that this will not occur before late February.
COBLE - Congressman Howard Coble made the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric last Tuesday.
In a 30-second interview - with an estimated $2.6 million value in publicity, according to his spokesman - CBS news correspondent Sharyl Attkisson "Follows the Money" by pointing out that Coble is one of only two members of Congress refusing to accept a pension.
"You're a superhero here," Attkisson said in greeting the 78-year old Republican from Greensboro.
Coble responded: "I figure taxpayers pay my salary, not a bad salary, and I figure that that's sufficient. Let me fend for myself after the salary's collected."
Part of the segment was devoted to the number of former congressmen who have been convicted of crimes but are still allowed to collect their pensions.
In his earliest years in the House, Coble tried to eliminate congressional pensions altogether but his effort failed. Instead, he decided to decline his own pension.
"That's between my constituents and me," he told Attkisson.
MEDICARE - A Moore County delegation was among more than 200 older residents taking part in the Relay for Extra Help kickoff in Raleigh in the fall, according to state House Rep. Jamie Boles.
Participants pounded the pavement to initiate a statewide enrollment campaign for Medicare's "Extra Help" low-income subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs that help eligible Medicare recipients pay for their prescription drug coverage and other medical coverage.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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