Charles Grassley, the senior senator from the state to the south, sent out a long, long screed Monday warning that health care bills in the U.S. House and Senate amount to an "unprecedented government take-over of our nation's health care system."
The Iowa Republican is the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the so-called "Gang of Six" that labored this summer to come up with a bill appealing to both Democrats and Republicans, something that was a lovely idea but wasn't going to happen. While admitting that he'd only read a fraction of the proposed, hefty health care bills, Grassley attacks a number of proposals --- everything from expanding Medicaid to insurance reforms that would limit premiums for older people to a maximum of twice the amount younger people pay. Grassley also doesn't care much a former bill now included in the U.S. House bill: the CLASS Act, a bill championed by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy that would encourage people to save for long-term care.
Drawing the most ire is the list of new responsibilities delegated to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services in the current Senate HELP committee bill. I'm in the same boat as Grassley, still plowing through these massive pieces of legislation. But my initial take is that this has more to do with the practicalities of making the reforms a reality if they pass. Grassley, who raged against nonexistent death panels last summer, sees something far more sinister:
"Now I know the other side doesn't like to hear that this bill calls for a government takeover of our health care system. But let's let the facts speak for themselves. If it isn’t a government takeover of our health care system, why does the word “Secretary” appear 982 times in this bill? Maybe the other side needs a reminder that the Secretary of HHS is an agent of the federal government."
To read the rest of Grassley's floor statement, click HERE. To read the actual text of the Senate HELP Committee bill, click HERE. To read the text of the U.S. House bill, which could face a floor vote as early as Thursday, click HERE.