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Huelskamp talks health care changes

4/18/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., denounced President Barack Obama and his administration's actions on health care, regulations and other issues during his town hall meeting Thursday at Rose Garden Banquet Hall in Hays.

The Fowler native said he was skeptical of reports stating Obama's namesake health care program has enrolled millions of customers.

"So you say you've signed up 7 million, well how many have paid? Apparently one-fourth may not have paid at all," Huelskamp said.

The Affordable Care Act's success in Kansas also is in question, he said.

"There are more folks uninsured today in our district, we believe, than were uninsured before Obamacare kicked in," Huelskamp said.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius' resignation is a reflection on the legislation, he said.

"It's a flawed law," Huelskamp said. "She helped write it, put it together, and the implementation has been as bad or worse than we expected."

Regarding speculation Sebelius is considering a U.S. senate campaign to represent the Sunflower State, Huelskamp said the fallout surrounding the program's faulty debut will be her legacy.

"What's happened to middle-class Kansans who have lost their plans because of Obamacare? I don't think she would do well," he said.

Huelskamp fielded a question from one of the 26 attendees about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a group tasked with cutting Medicare costs if they rise beyond projections.

"Fifteen unelected bureaucrats will be appointed by the president under certain conditions when the health insurance inflation gets up to a certain rate, which I believe will happen this year. And they will be in charge of rationing," he said.

According to the White House's website, the Senate-confirmed group would be responsible for ensuring Medicare is kept viable by coordinating care, eliminating waste, rewarding best practices and focusing on primary care. They recommend decisions to Congress. But if the governing body does not take any action, the secretary of HHS can adopt the suggestions.

"IPAB is specifically prohibited by law from recommending any policies that ration care, raise taxes, increase premiums or cost-sharing, restrict benefits or modify who is eligible for Medicare," states the group's description.

Huelskamp said the federal government's classification of the lesser prairie chicken as endangered has economic consequences. Drought has hurt grass growth and threatened the animal's habitat, and the federal government has taken steps to impose rules on land use.

"It's very serious. It will impact oil and gas producers, ranchers, farmers," he said.

"The press release says, 'Don't worry, your normal ag activities are exempted,' if you are signed up for the 110-page agreement which your attorney probably would recommend you not sign on to in order to avoid, potentially, jail time."

Huelskamp criticized the 26,000 pages of regulations created in 2013 and the 3,500 regulations proposed this year.

Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays, the 111th district representative in the state Legislature, attended the forum and asked about progress on the Keystone pipeline.

"Everybody up the pipeline ... said go ahead with the project, and the president said no," Huelskamp said. "We know that would create 10,000 construction jobs, temporarily, but the impact is it helps our energy independence."

The representative said the national debt is a critical issue because the figure is projected to increase $8 trillion during the next decade. It would be a "massive economic disaster," he said.

Charles Pfannenstiel, Hays, attended the meeting and said his favorite topic was about regulations because too many rules hurt economic growth. Pfannenstiel said he approves of the representative's performance.

"He's great. He's a tremendous congressman," Pfannenstiel said. "He's the best one we've had in a long time, in my opinion, because he's trying to get the debt down."