Barbour: Current healthcare reform bill could hurt Mississippi

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Republican leaders met Friday in Jackson to discuss "reinvigorating" the Republican party.

"Grassroots out there are rising up and we need to be a part of that tide," said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. "We need to part of this that says, 'enough is enough.' And so the party leadership, in concert with the grassroots, are ready to strike back."

The meeting comes at time when health care is at the forefront of talks in Washington. Governor Barbour strongly opposes the health care reform bill and the administration's plan to expand Medicaid.

In a statement, Governor Barbour said, "Current congressional health care proposals to expand Medicaid coverage to individuals above the federal poverty line would greatly increase costs to the states at a time when tax revenues are shrinking."

But Mississippi Democratic leaders contend Barbour is failing with jobs and health care.

In a statement released Friday, they said, "Governor Barbour has a lot of audacity. While our leaders in Congress are trying to pass health care reform, the governor is trying to scare the people of Mississippi saying expanding Medicaid and Medicare will cause our taxes to go up."

Governor Barbour also sent a letter to Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran stating his opposition to the proposed changes.

"This legislation is the wrong reform," Barbour wrote. "As Democrats seem to be willing to take any deal to pass their 'historic' bill, I will continue to share with taxpayers both in Mississippi and across the country the consequences such policies would have on their access to quality and affordable health care, and I genuinely appreciate your recognizing the terrible effects on your constituents. Please keep opposing this health care reform fill and any other one similar to it."

Senators Cochran and Roger Wicker have their own concerns about the cost of the bill. In a joint statement, the republicans said Friday that a "new, independent analysis" that indicates the legislation "would fail to contain health care costs and could result in health care shortages for many Americans."

"This new report affirms a lot of the concerns that have been raised about the health reform bill before the Senate. The analysis raises brings to light significant questions about the affordability and consequences of the legislation. I believe it is another indication that the Senate should not rush to pass this bill, but rather step back and look at a more workable and affordable reform plan," Cochran said.

"This nonpartisan report confirms that this massive $2.5 trillion dollar bill will actually increase health care costs, not lower them. The bill would also jeopardize seniors' access to health care by slashing Medicare by nearly half a trillion dollars. That is not the kind of reform Americans deserve," Wicker said.

Before the Senate began its debate of the Reid heath care bill, Cochran and Wicker signed a letter asking Reid to submit his plan to the CMS Office of the Actuary for analysis. The letter asserted that all Senators should have the CMS analysis, in addition to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate review, before considering the Reid plan.

The CMS report on HR.3590 released Friday states the projected savings from Medicare cuts in the Reid plan are "unrealistic" and "unrelated to the providers' costs of furnishing services to beneficiaries." It also warns that health care shortages are probable because "providers might tend to accept more patients who have private insurance (with relatively attractive payment rates) and fewer Medicare and Medicaid patients, exacerbating existing access problems for the latter group."

In terms of costs, the CMS report says that under HR.3590, national health expenditures would increase by $234 billion and eventually amount to about 20.9 percent—more than one out of every five dollars—of the Gross Domestic Product. Cochran and Wicker said the nation currently spends about $2.5 trillion a year on health care, or about 16 percent of the GDP.

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