2 years, 2 faces ofobama’s health care law

GOP to make move amid par­ti­san rift

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY PAIGE WIN­FIELD CUN­NING­HAM

Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care over­haul marks its sec­ond an­niver­sary this week, and from the way Repub­li­cans and Democrats on Capi­tol Hill are talk­ing about it, you would think they are look­ing at two en­tirely dif­fer­ent laws.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion and its con­gres­sional al­lies have homed in on pro­vi­sions among the law’s 1,000 pages that of­fer quick re­turns: ex­tend­ing par­ents’ plans to cover young adults, ex­pand­ing drug cov­er­age for se­niors and elim­i­nat­ing life­time ben­e­fit caps.

But for Repub­li­cans, the fo­cus is al­most ex­clu­sively on the long-term costs of the law and po­ten­tial lim­its they say the gov­ern­ment will be forced to im­pose on care. Both, they ar­gue, will can­cel out any im­me­di­ate ben­e­fits.

To pack an ex­tra po­lit­i­cal punch just days be­fore the Supreme Court hears a chal­lenge to the law, House Re­pub­li­can lead­ers have said they will hold a vote be­fore the end of the week on leg­is­la­tion re­peal­ing a key part of the law — a panel of ap­pointees charged with curb­ing Medi­care costs called the In­de­pen­dent Pay­ment Ad­vi­sory Board (IPAB).

“Nearly two years since its pas­sage, the Democrats’ health care law re­mains deeply un­pop­u­lar,” said Rep. Dave Camp, Michi­gan Re­pub­li­can and chair­man of the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee. “IPAB, which is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the law, il­lus­trates why those con­cerns are still so strong.”

Democrats are point­ing to im­me­di­ate ben­e­fits from the law in an ef­fort to re­ha­bil­i­tate its im­age in the minds of vot­ers, who take a dim view of it two years af­ter its pas­sage. An Abc-washington Post poll re­leased Mon­day found that Amer­i­cans op­pose the law by 52 per­cent to 41 per­cent.

The law also faces le­gal pres­sures. The Supreme Court holds sev­eral days of oral ar­gu­ment on the law next week, with a rul­ing ex­pected this sum­mer.

The House IPAB repeal vote will mark the 26th time the House has voted to repeal all or part of the health care law, although nearly all of the ef­forts have been blocked in the Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate.

The prob­lem with IPAB, Repub­li­cans charge, is also the main prob­lem with the rest of the Af­ford­able Care Act: too much fed­eral con­trol over health care de­ci­sions. Paint­ing the fed­eral law as a tan­gle of fed­eral bu­reau­cracy and op­pres­sive reg­u­la­tions, they say it will cause health care costs to rapidly in­flate, weigh­ing on busi­nesses and crush­ing job cre­ation.

“This ‘gov­ern­ment knows best’ ap­proach is why Amer­i­cans across the coun­try sup­port repeal, and it is also why there is strong bi­par­ti­san sup­port here in Congress to repeal IPAB,” Mr. Camp said.

Democrats said they have plenty of ev­i­dence that the law is work­ing, tak­ing spe­cial pains this week to high­light how it has helped such Democratlean­ing vot­ers as young adults, women and se­niors.

House Democrats gath­ered Wed­nes­day to ap­plaud a new re­quire­ment for in­sur­ers to cover chil­dren up to age 26 on their par­ents’ plans. While the num­ber of unin­sured as risen in most age cat­e­gories since the law was en­acted, the num­ber has dropped among young adults with some 2.5 mil­lion added to in­sur­ance rolls, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I can think of no stronger pro­vi­sion in the Af­ford­able Care Act there is than to pro­tect young peo­ple un­der the age of 26 and en­abling them to go on their par­ents’ health in­sur­ance plan,” said Rep. Donna F. Ed­wards, Mary­land Demo­crat.

A group of Demo­cratic fe­male sen­a­tors pointed to pro­vi­sions aimed at help­ing women, prais­ing the law for “ground­break­ing ad­vance­ments” in women’s health.

Un­der the law, in­sur­ers can’t drop women from cov­er­age when they get preg­nant or charge them higher pre­mi­ums than men. In­sur­ers also must cover pre­ven­tive ser­vices such as mam­mo­grams and con­tra­cep­tion with­out charg­ing co-pay­ments, among a num­ber of other pro­vi­sions.

“That was what the Af­ford­able Care Act was all about,” said Rep. Lois Capps, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat. “Fix­ing a bro­ken health care sys­tem . . . for women across this coun­try and for their fam­i­lies, this law gets it right.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion also added mus­cle to the ef­fort, with Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius an­nounc­ing last week an ini­tia­tive called My­care, where the ad­min­is­tra­tion posts a video each day of an in­di­vid­ual who has ben­e­fited from the law.

On Mon­day, it was a woman iden­ti­fied as He­len R., a se­nior who would fall into a gap in Medi­care pre­scrip­tion drug cov­er­age called the “dough­nut hole,” but who will now re­ceive a 50 per­cent dis­count on drugs un­der the health care law.

On Tues­day, the ad­min­is­tra­tion high­lighted Vanessa Mishkit, a nurse in Tampa, Fla., who still will be able to ob­tain cov­er­age for her son de­spite se­ri­ous birth de­fects be­cause the law bans in­sur­ers from deny­ing cov­er­age based on pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.

On Wed­nes­day, there was a video about Steven Gial­lourakis, 21, of Cleve­land, who can re­main on his par­ents’ plan as he com­bats chronic med­i­cal con­di­tions from can­cer treat­ments.

Although Democrats em­pha­sized that the reg­u­la­tions are good news for con­sumers, Repub­li­cans pre­dicted a dif­fer­ent out­come, warn­ing of se­ri­ous side ef­fects from im­pos­ing more rules on in­sur­ers and busi­nesses.

Re­pub­li­can Sens. Tom Coburn of Ok­la­homa and John Bar­rasso of Wy­oming re­leased a “checkup” on the health care law, in which they said a med­i­cal loss ra­tio gov­ern­ing how much in­sur­ers can spend on over­head will cause a col­lapse in the pri­vate in­sur­ance mar­ket, caus­ing mil­lions of Amer­i­cans to lose their in­sur­ance plans, cost the econ­omy 788,000 jobs and in­crease Medi­care’s un­funded li­a­bil­i­ties by $2 tril­lion.

Be­sides all that, Repub­li­cans also have fo­cused at­tacks on how the health care law will af­fect over­all fed­eral spend­ing.

Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Re­pub­li­can and chair­man of the over­sight and in­ves­ti­ga­tions sub­com­mit­tee of the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee, com­plained about a re­port by the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice es­ti­mat­ing that the law will cost more than orig­i­nally ex­pected.

“These are not par­ti­san points — these are ob­jec­tive facts,” Mr. Stearns said. “Pro­po­nents of the law promised low­ered pre­mi­ums, they promised low­ered costs and they promised that if you didn’t want your cov­er­age to change, it would not. That is sim­ply not the case.” the Mis­sion­ary Sis­ters of St. Charles Bor­romeo’s re­tire­ment home.

”When you come out of the back of the chapel, you can see the fa­cil­ity,” said Peter Breen, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Thomas More So­ci­ety. “When they have given their en­tire lives to teach those chil­dren of Stone Park — af­ter a life­time of ser­vice to their faith — these sis­ters’ re­ward in their re­tire­ment years is to be in con­stant view of the large porno­graphic palace.”

Op­po­nents of the club have a public vigil sched­uled, and the Thomas More So­ci­ety hopes to use a state “buf­fer zone” law to pre­vent the club from open­ing af­ter, they claim, the vil­lage rolled over to the big de­vel­oper on lo­cal zon­ing laws that could have pre­vented the club.

Ac­cord­ing to its owner, Get It will be more than a beer-shots-and-pole es­tab­lish­ment, in­stead of­fer­ing pro­fes­sional-level top­less danc­ing in a high-tech en­vi­ron­ment com­pa­ra­ble to the fa­mous bur­lesques of Paris.

“We are Lido for the 21st cen­tury,” club owner Robert Itzkow said in an in­ter­view with the “Roe & Roeper” ra­dio show on WLS-890 AM. “A strip club we are not.”

He said his club will be a good neigh­bor, both to the nuns and the rest of the towns­folk, ex­plain­ing his build­ing has been sound­proofed and its light­ing set up so as not to af­fect the nuns next door.

Dancers will be par­tially clothed and per­form bur­lesque in a venue that fea­tures a Cirque du Soleil-style trapeze, Mr. Itzkow said, adding that he also plans to land­scape the rear of the build­ing, which is near­est the nuns’ home, with 20-foot-high trees that will shield the two es­tab­lish­ments from each other’s view.

But in a public state­ment, Mr. Itzkow called the sis­ters of the con­vent his “non-tax­pay­ing neigh­bors” and ac­cused them of re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance.

“As a le­gal, tax-pay­ing cit­i­zen of this com­mu­nity, we ask only to be judged fairly by what we have done and not through the re­cent re­li­gious fer­vor,” Mr. Itzkow said. “You treat us as we have treated you, by not try­ing to un­duly dis­turb us by im­pos­ing your re­li­gious be­liefs on us or oth­ers. All through­out our plans for this project, we’ve fol­lowed the let­ter and spirit of the law.”

Sev­eral of the nuns have spo­ken out against the club in sto­ries that have re­ceived front-page at­ten­tion in Chicago.

They have said that when they asked about the con­struc­tion project, they were told it was a res­tau­rant — not a tem­ple to nu­dity and lust.

“We are re­li­gious. We es­pouse cer­tain be­liefs. As Catholic re­li­gious, we take vows and we have some­thing like this, to­tally op­po­site, go­ing on. It’s not safe,” Sis­ter Maris­so­nia Dal­toe told Chicago FOX-TV af­fil­i­ate WFLD.

There are le­gal is­sues, too, said at­tor­neys with the Thomas More So­ci­ety, a Catholic group.

Mr. Breen told the Stone Park Vil­lage Board that his public-in­ter­est law firm has iden­ti­fied a state law that calls for a 1-mile “buf­fer zone” be­tween adult en­ter­tain­ment fa­cil­i­ties and “places of worship.”

He ar­gued that the lo­ca­tion of the Get It club next to the nuns’ home is there­fore not le­gal and that con­struc­tion on the busi­ness must be stopped.

His or­ga­ni­za­tion has of­fered the vil­lage free le­gal help in op­pos­ing Mr. Itzkow, but thus far it has not taken the of­fer.

“We con­tend that state law is pretty clear,” he said. “That the 1,000 feet [buf­fer zone] ap­plies. We’ve asked the vil­lage for an in­terim step to put a hold on the per­mit process and take some time to ex­am­ine the state law. The vil­lage doesn’t want to do it. We re­ally want to see very con­crete ac­tions.”

The town will al­low Mr. Breen’s at­tor­neys through Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quests (FOIA) to keep daily track of the per­mit process in ad­vance of the club’s open­ing, which is on track for some­time this spring.

Mr. Breen said town res­i­dents also are “very much up­set,” not­ing that “even apart from the re­li­gious as­pect, there are lit­er­ally res­i­den­tial homes that back up to that fa­cil­ity. There is a swing set right next to it.”

The club has been in dis­pute with the city for more than two years. Twice the vil­lage’s board voted against it, but Mr. Itzkow filed a law­suit, ar­gu­ing that zon­ing laws al­lowed him to build there.

He also ac­cused town of­fi­cials of a shake­down, de­mand­ing money and a cut of the prof­its in ex­change for the right to build his club.

The law­suit was later set­tled in 2010, with town lead­ers grant­ing per­mis­sion to build and say­ing the le­gal ex­pense to fight the club was fi­nan­cially pro­hib­i­tive.

Within the set­tle­ment agree­ment, the town’s own buf­fer-zone-or­di­nance re­stric­tions, be­tween adult en­ter­tain­ment es­tab­lish­ments and schools, parks, churches, and res­i­den­tial ar­eas, were voided, ac­tions that Mr. Breen calls the vil­lage “giv­ing away the store.”

Oth­ers in this blue-col­lar com­mu­nity, strug­gling to shake off its seedy past, which has in­cluded pros­ti­tu­tion, gam­bling and al­leged mob ac­tiv­ity, are out­raged by Mr. Itzkow’s ven­ture.

A can­dle­light vigil is planned for Thurs­day as area res­i­dents take to the street in protest.

Stone Park Mayor Ben Maz­zula did not re­turn a call for com­ment on the dis­pute.

Mr. Breen said his group does not plan to give up its de­fense of the sis­ters’ pro­fessed right to live with­out ex­po­sure to such a busi­ness.

“If the fa­cil­ity is not le­gal un­der state law, they still have to en­force state law,” he said of the vil­lage. “We ar­gue con­vinc­ingly that the con­tract is void­able be­cause it makes no sense that one would waive and repeal nu­mer­ous lo­cal or­di­nances, the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of which had not been chal­lenged” in the law­suit.

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