The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 13, 2012

Dissent on health care: 12th district hopefuls disagree on remedy for law

— Neither candidate in this year’s 12th Congressional District race wanted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be enacted.

Now, though, that the law is in place, they disagree about how to move forward.

Republican challenger Keith Rothfus has made repealing the legislation, signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010, a pillar of his campaign.

Meanwhile, the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johns­town, supports some parts of the plan and opposes others.

The sweeping reform requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions, creates an Independent Payment Advisory Board, changes numerous tax laws involving health care, closes a gap in Medicare Part D funding for prescription drugs and allows parents to keep children on their health-care programs until age 26. Under the new code, almost every citizen will soon be required to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty through the Internal Revenue Service. More than 30 million currently uninsured Americans are expected to be able to acquire health care because of the act.

“Obamacare has been a wet blanket on the job market from day one,” said Rothfus, a lawyer from Allegheny County.

Critz was not in office when Democrats in the House and Senate passed the health-care overhaul with no Republican support. He did not enter Congress until winning a special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, in May 2010.

“I opposed the health-care bill when it passed and I voted to eliminate the individual mandate, the medical device tax and the 1099 reporting requirement,” said Critz. “I also oppose the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is a board of unelected bureaucrats that could cut Medicare benefits for seniors.”

He, however, is not in favor of completely erasing all parts of the legislation.

“We cannot go back to allowing insurance companies to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, we cannot re-open the ‘doughnut hole’ which would cost seniors more for prescription drugs and we cannot allow insurance companies to charge women more than men for the same coverage,” Critz said.

Rothfus feels the act, which survived a challenge in the Supreme Court of the United States earlier this year, takes health-care resources away from senior citizens, negatively impacts the doctor-patient relationship, hurts small businesses and inflicts penalties on people through IRS codes.

“I talked to one small business just the other day; he said he has 900 employees,” said Rothfus.

“It’s going to be 1,800 bucks per employee to implement that. These are tremendous costs being passed along. Some of the fast-food franchises are saying half of their profit is going to go toward implementing Obamacare, so people aren’t hiring. We need patient-centered health-care reform, not government-centered health-care reform. Obamacare created 158 new bureaus, agencies, offices, etc. and gave tremendous power to the federal government.”

In order to overturn the PPACA, as Rothfus wants, the Republican Party would almost certainly need to keep control of the House, gain a majority in the Senate and, most importantly, get its presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, into the White House during the upcoming general election. If Obama retains the presidency, he would most likely veto any attempt by Congress to repeal his signature piece of legislation.

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