Healthcare Vote

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Childers repeats ‘nay’ vote on healthcare bill

By Billy Davis

Mississippi 1st District Congressman Travis Childers voted against his party’s healthcare bill in a landmark but contentious vote Sunday night.

Childers joined 33 other House Democrats, who together joined with 178 House Republicans to oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The healthcare bill passed narrowly 219-212.

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Childers announced March 18 that he would oppose the coming vote, citing its “large price tag” of $940 billion, and its absence of “sufficiently strong language” to restrict federal funding of abortion.

“After months of debate I still don’t believe we’ve gotten it right,” the congressman said of the then-pending legislation.

Childers’ “nay” vote was not too surprising, since he voted against a similar bill in November. But Democrat leadership, needing 216 votes, had managed to woo other Democrats, leading to speculation over whether Childers would also switch to a “yea” vote.

Many of those Democrats, including Childers, are fiscal conservatives known as Blue Dogs.

Childers is touting his conservative voting record as he eyes a tough political race this summer for the 1st District seat.

“Obamacare is so bad with higher taxes, more spending and more government intrusion that I would have announced  my opposition months ago,” said 1st District Republican candidate state Sen. Alan Nunnelee.

“This health bill, without a doubt, will break the United States. We are already broke,” said Wally Pang, a 1st District independent candidate from Batesville.   

At Tri-Lakes Medical Center, hospital co-owner Dr. Mike Havens said the hospital loses on average $1 million a month from patients who can’t or don’t pay for services. He said many of those patients might be able to pay for services under the new healthcare bill, meaning the hospital stands to recoup its losses.  

But Havens said the hospital’s short-term gain would come with long-term consequences for the country’s healthcare system.

“I’ve been around long enough to see what’s coming. Nothing is free,” he said. “It’s not a plan that you want because we can’t pay for it.”

Havens likened the healthcare bill to costly federal entitlements Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, and Medicare, which provides insurance for the elderly. Taxpayers foot the bill with both employer and employee contributing 1.45 percent of gross pay at payroll.

Healthcare costs are “driven up” by programs such Medicaid and Medicare, since private rates increase to offset the loss of revenue, claimed Havens.

To cut Medicare costs, doctors who participate in the program experienced a 21-percent reduction in reimbursements that kicked in March 1, according to Havens.

“I tell people, ‘Tell me something the government touches that doesn’t lose money. Name one.’ They can’t,” Havens said.

The Mississippi Democratic Party supported the healthcare bill, but a state spokesman said Childers voted the “best way” for the state’s 1st District and “has to make his own decision.”

“We wholeheartedly support Congressman Childers’ re-election,” said Sam Hall, executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party.

State party chairman Jamie Franks has said he supports the healthcare bill. “Turning a blind eye to so many people in need is not the mark of high morality,” he said. “We must reach out and give a hand up to those in need.”

Hall, on the state party Web site, relayed the talking points of the bill: it extends health coverage to 30 million Americans, reduces the federal deficit, and expands Medicaid coverage, among other triumphs.

“Tonight is a great night for America,” Hall wrote.