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As goes the 1st Congressional District, so goes the nation?
Congressman Tim Bishop said his polling on the much-contested health care bill approved by Congress and signed by President Obama found public sentiment “is pretty much split down the middle.”
Speaking during a recent meeting of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Bishop said a December poll found 47 percent favored the bill with 46 percent opposed to it. In April the numbers were 46 percent for and 43 percent against. The split for the 14,000 pieces of mail the congressman’s office received on health care was 49 percent in favor and 51 percent against, Mr. Bishop said during the meeting at Macari Vineyards.
He spoke before a small group of business owners and health care professionals who seemed skeptical that the legislation Mr. Bishop supported can meet its goals of providing health coverage for 30 million people while lowering total health care costs.
Mr. Bishop, a Democrat seeking a fifth term, said a reading of the Congressional Record from 1965 shows that the creation of the Medicare program sparked the same concerns and criticisms as those voiced about the president’s health care bill. But without Medicare, the national health insurance program for people over 65, “We would have a public health crisis of monumental proportions,” the congressman said.
Seeking to allay any fears of harsh economic impacts, Mr. Bishop said that under the provisions of the new bill, a business with fewer than 50 full-time employees is not obligated to change how it provides employee coverage. Only six percent of all American companies hire more than 50 full-timers, he added.
For smaller businesses, “There’s nothing not to like about the health care bill,” said the congressman.
The code also provides tax credits to businesses providing coverage, but the average salary must be below $50,000, said Mr. Bishop. A simpler approach that would only prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions would have caused rates to skyrocket, but adding up to 30 million people to the insurance pool will moderate any cost increases, the congressman said.
The new taxes levied to help finance the $95 billion program will come as a .9 percent withholding on individuals making $200,000 a year or more or families with income of over $250,000, according to Mr. Bishop. Washington additionally will impose fines on individuals who don’t purchase health insurance and penalize larger employers who don’t offer coverage, the congressman added.
Responding to the much-voiced criticism that the nation is moving toward socialized medicine, Mr. Bishop said the U.S. is currently heavily invested in social benefit programs. He continued to say that the U.S. now spends $3.92 trillion each year and a third of that goes to Social Security or Medicare.
“I studied it and made a judgment,” he said. “The people, every two years, get to make a judgment on me.”
In the mind of Ken Zahler of Cutchogue, owner of a title insurance firm, Mr. Bishop made the wrong call. He called the health care bill “a shell game” that will cause taxes “to go through the roof.”
Mr. Bishop argued that cutting taxes in line with Republican wishes won’t end the nation’s fiscal woes.
“The idea that tax cuts are a magical elixir and that the economy will take off like a rocket … simply is not supported by historical fact,” the congressman said. “The only financial policy that the previous administration had was to cut taxes. Guess what? It didn’t work.”