After months of work helping to craft a health care reform bill, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’ll vote “no” today when the bill goes before the Senate Finance Committee. Grassley, a Republican, is expected to be in the minority. One thing Grassley opposes in the legislation is the stipulation that virtually all Americans would need to carry health insurance or face a fine.
“There’s a penalty for people that don’t have health insurance,” Grassley says. “That fine would be paid to the Internal Revenue Service. It’s like a tax. In fact, I guess you could call it a penalty tax, that a family would have to pay $1,500 and an individual would have to pay $750.”
Critics charge it’s nonsensical to fine people who can’t afford to pay for health insurance, since it’s likely they already dropped health insurance because of the expense. On a philosophical basis, Grassley says he’s against the idea of forcing people to buy health insurance.
“The federal government has never mandated, ever, that you’ve gotta’ purchase such-and-such, anything, in other words, in America, you’re free to buy whatever you want to buy whenever you want to buy it,” Grassley says. “In this particular instance, for the first time, the government is saying you’ve got to have health insurance.”
The overall plan would cost 829-billion dollars over ten years. Grassley expects it to pass in the committee’s vote and that it may even pass the full Senate. Earlier this month, Democratic Iowa Senator Tom Harkin vowed a health care reform plan would be on President Obama’s desk before Christmas. Grassley was asked if he sees that statement as likely.
“If the Democrats stick together in the Senate, and they’ve got 60, they can produce a bill,” Grassley says. “Now, will they stick together? I don’t know. There seems to be seven or eight (senators) that are looking around for changes to be made before they can support it and who knows? Maybe those changes they want to make could bring us around to getting some Republican ideas adopted, like tort reform.” Another thing Grassley says he’d like to see in the bill is medical malpractice reform, which he says could save more money than any other proposals in the measure.