|Sen. Johanns meets with constituents|
|August 22, 2013 Jerry Purvis|
Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen - Senator Mike Johanns
U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns was in Scottsbluff last week to meet with constituents and a predicable concern was the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called Obamacare.
“I wasn’t a supporter of Obamacare and voted against it,” Johanns said. “After I studied it, my best conclusion was that it wasn’t fixable. It couldn’t be amended enough to make it a sensible policy.”
Johanns voted to defund the ACA and voted against the continuing resolution to continue government spending. However, he said the subsidies under the healthcare law would continue even if the bill is defunded.
“The taxes will continue to be collected under the healthcare law,” he said. “Medicaid will continue and another 26 million people will be added to the rolls. The individual mandate that everyone have health insurance will also continue. None of it is impacted by the continuing resolution, so voting against it just isn’t the right strategy.”
He said as a result of policies already in place under the healthcare act, there will be more consolidation of insurance companies with the big ones getting bigger and the smaller ones going out of business.
“The people who are going to get hurt the most by this healthcare bill are those are in individual markets,” he said. “Right now, insurance companies can only sell in states where they’re located. So if you’re a small business owner of a self-employed farmer, your rates are going up. If they could join with other small groups in other states, they could get better rates. I think that would be a significant step in the right direction.”
He added he would like to see healthcare consumers have the same tax deductibility for insurance that’s extended to small businesses.
He said one of his problems with the Affordable Care Act is that it will shrink the number of people who are insured, forcing up the cost of insurance when people are required to buy it through federal exchanges. That includes Congressmen and Senators and their immediate staffs. The tens of thousands of federal employees are exempt from having to purchase their insurance through the exchanges and can still purchase it through the federal government.
Johanns also spoke on how the 2012 federal budget of $3.5 trillion is affected by programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. About 22 percent of the budget goes for Social Security. Medicaid, Medicare and the children’s health program takes up another 22 percent. And unemployment insurance and food stamps run about 13 percent of the budget.
But our deficit runs about 700 to 750 billion dollars. And the national debt has grown to $17 trillion.
Johanns said the debt is unsustainable so both the debt and deficit spending must be reduced. But at the same time, the government needs to strengthen Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security because most people support them.
“A 41-year-old woman in Lincoln told me she didn’t think she’d see anything from Social Security,” he said. “There’s no reason why we can’t we can fix Social Security so she will get what she’s been promised. But if we do nothing, she’s got a very serious problem.”
He said if we don’t fix those programs, the major impact won’t be on the Boomer Generation of soon-to-be retirees, but on women like the one he met in Lincoln.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Johanns told the group. “I don’t believe you’re getting the quality of government at the federal level that you deserve.”