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Checking The Pulse Of Newly-Passed Reform

President Barack Obama’s historic and controversial health care bill passed Sunday night in a 219 to 212 vote in the U. S. House of Representatives.

Just prior to the vote Democrats acknowledged they had nailed down commitments from a handful of members that would give them the 216 votes needed to pass the bill.

Following the vote to approve the bill Sunday night, President Obama issued a statement that included the following:

“If you have health insurance, this reform just gave you more control by reining in the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry with some of the toughest consumer protections this country has ever known — so that you are actually getting what you pay for.

“If you don’t have insurance, this reform gives you a chance to be a part of a big purchasing pool that will give you choice and competition and cheaper prices for insurance.  And it includes the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in history. So that if you lose your job and you change jobs, start that new business, you’ll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable care and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

“This reform is the right thing to do for our seniors.  It makes Medicare stronger and more solvent, extending its life by almost a decade.  And it’s the right thing to do for our future.  It will reduce our deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.

“So this isn’t radical reform.  But it is major reform.  This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system.  But it moves us decisively in the right direction.  This is what change looks like.”

Among those helping to pass the bill was 5th District Congressman Tom Perriello who voted yes.

Following passage of the bill Sunday night, Perriello released the following statement: “For more than a century, our leaders have promised affordable universal healthcare to all Americans. Today we delivered that result in a way that our local hospitals say will improve quality and reduce costs for patients. Middle-class families will save $1,000 to $2,000 per year, and small business owners will see the cost of covering their workers drop. This bill will help our rural hospitals and clinics keep their doors open, improve health care for over 400,000 local residents, reduce the federal deficit, and provide coverage to 48,000 more individuals in the 5th district alone -- more than the population of Danville.

“At the end of the day, this decision for me came down to whether working families would see savings at the kitchen table. They will. I asked whether seniors will see the Medicare Trust Fund extended and the cost of prescription drugs drop. They will. As I have heard from our major hospitals that endorsed the bill, this legislation will improve health care and bring down costs for Virginians.”

But not all agreed with the president and congressman’s sentiments.

Virginia Attorney-General Ken Cuccinelli said Virginia would file suit against the federal government once President Obama signs the health care reform bill into law. Cuccinelli claims the legislation is unconstitutional because it violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution by requiring almost all Americans to be insured by 2014.

“At no time in our history has the government mandated its citizens buy a good or service,” Cuccinelli said in a statement Sunday night.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell issued a statement Monday that said, “Expanding access to reasonably priced quality healthcare is a bipartisan goal. We all agree that we must make it easier for Americans to purchase and retain health insurance.

“However, this massive and complex piece of legislation allows the federal government to exercise control over one-sixth of the United States economy. The continued intrusion of this Congress into the free enterprise system, and the placing of new mandates on states, is shocking to the American system of federalism.  Most disconcerting is the provision mandating that every American must purchase health insurance or face a monetary penalty.  This is an unprecedented expansion of federal power.

“It is hard to imagine our founder’s agreeing that the United States Constitution permits Congress to mandate the purchase of a good or service under penalty of law.

“Just a few days ago I approved a bill, passed on a bipartisan basis, which prohibits mandatory insurance purchases for Virginians.

“Virginia’s Attorney General has rightly chosen to challenge the constitutionality of the federal mandate. I anticipate that he will be joined by a number of other states. The issues raised by Attorney General Cuccinelli require a full and prompt review by the judicial branch.

“While individuals face a mandate in this legislation, so too do the states.  The proposed expansion of Medicaid is an historic unfunded federal mandate on the states. This expansion will put at least 400,000 more individuals on Virginia’s Medicaid rolls.

“The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services has estimated that it will cost the Commonwealth an additional $1.1 billion by 2022.

“Virginia, and the other 49 states, will bear the financial burden of one of the biggest unfunded mandates in the history of our nation. This will have a significant and unavoidable impact on the bottom line of our state budget, and the general fiscal welfare of Virginia. We simply cannot afford this expansion.”

Locally, county and town officials are adopting a “wait and see” position on the health care reform legislation.

“I’m still trying to find out the particulars,” said County Administrator George Nester.

“Health care needs to be affordable and practical,” Nester said. “We do not know how the new legislation will affect county employees.

“In November we got a good proposal for health care insurance from Anthem, and we’re bound to them for three years,” he explained. “It means less cost to us and expanded coverage for our employees.”

South Boston Town Manager Ted Daniel said he could not form an opinion on the legislation until it becomes law. “When the dust clears in Washington we’ll see how it will impact us and when it will impact us,” Daniel said.

“Like everybody else, we’re waiting for the final piece of legislation,” he continued. “It will be interesting to see what the senate does with it.

“We have insurance with Anthem, and I know that our insurance premiums keep going up every year,” he added.

Halifax Town Manager Carl Espy also was cautious in expressing an opinion about the health care legislation. “We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said.
“We have needed to address health care for a number of years,” Espy added. “I just hope the reform is meaningful.”

Halifax County Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Pool said the chamber has not taken a formal position on the health care reform bill. “Personally, I have concerns regarding who will pay for it,” she said. “It appears it will be on the shoulders of the business community.”

Halifax Regional Health System CEO Chris Lumsden said he is cautiously optimistic regarding the health care reform legislation. “We have to dissect the bill itself,” Lumsden said. “It has many parts and is hard to understand.”

The hospital chief said there is a lot of detail in the 2,000 plus page legislation. “It’s more health insurance reform than health care reform,” he said. “Aside from the political viewpoint, will this legislation provide a better health care system for Americans and at what cost?”

Lumsden said one of the most important factors of the legislation is what effect it will have on Halifax Regional Health System’s medical staff. “We will need to see the impact it will have on our ability to recruit and retain medical staff,” he explained.

He said many provisions of the bill don’t take effect immediately. “We won’t know the true impact of the legislation until four to five years down the road,” he said. “It will be a huge change for all of us; it may be good, or it may be bad. Over time we will see.”