Tom Coburn health-care amendments demand tough votes from Democrats

Gautham Nagesh Contributor
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Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn has never been afraid to use his vast knowledge of Senate rules to make political hay. He did so again on Tuesday by offering a list of amendments to the health-care reconciliation bill designed to make Senate Democrats take tough votes against measures such as banning the government from paying for sex offenders’ Viagra.

Debate on the bill is limited to 20 hours but senators are allowed to make an unlimited number of amendments. If any amendment is approved the bill will require another vote in the House, which is why Democrats are expected to oppose all nine of Coburn’s amendments. That will mean taking votes on some cleverly worded chunks of legislation.

For example, one proposal would prohibit coverage of Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications for convicted rapists, child molesters and sex offenders. The amendment would also ban coverage of drugs intended to induce abortion.

“Dr. Coburn hopes his colleagues will support this common sense amendment and vote to protect families and children,” said John Hart, Coburn’s communications director. “Unless Congress provides specific guidance the new exchanges could repeat the federal government’s unconscionable practice of providing Viagra to sex offenders, child molesters and rapists.”

Hart also cited a 2005 Government Accountability Office stating that as many as 800 convicted sex offenders had obtained Medicaid-funded prescriptions for Viagra. Another amendment seeks to limit the amount of discretion given to the Secretary of Health and Human Services under the current bill to determine acceptable levels of coverage and services.

“With all due to respect to the secretary and the professional staff at HHS they are not qualified to practice medicine,” Hart said. “This misguided bill essentially turns the Department of Health and Human Services into a national triage center with Secretary Sebelius functioning as chief physician. This amendment recognizes the limitations of HHS and prevents the secretary and HHS bureaucrats from stepping between doctors and patients.”

The complete list of all nine amendments is attached below:

  • No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs To Sex Offenders – This amendment would enact recommendations from the Government Accountability Office to stop fraudulent payments for prescription drugs prescribed by dead providers or, to dead patients. This amendment also prohibits coverage of Viagra and other ED medications to convicted child molesters, rapists and sex offenders, and prohibits coverage of abortion drugs. (Note: the creation of exchanges could allow sex offenders to receive taxpayer-funded Viagra and other ED drugs unless Congress expressly prohibits this action – see additional background attached)
  • Bureaucrat Cap and Trade – This amendment would ensure that no provisions in the health bill increase the size of government bureaucracies in Washington, D.C. This amendment requires that for each government bureaucrat added to a government agency as a result of this act, there must be a corresponding decrease in a government bureaucrat at that agency. The federal government should not grow the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., when one in 10 Americans is looking for work and twice as many are underemployed.
  • Congress Should Not Lecture Americans About Fiscal Responsibility — This amendment would strike the creation of a new $375 million government program the new health bill (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) intended to promote personal and financial responsibility. It is ironic that Congress, that amassed a $12 trillion deficit, should lecture Americans about financial responsibility. This government “responsibility” program duplicates existing government programs and adds hundreds of millions of dollars to the tax burden funds. In short, there is nothing responsible about the new responsibility program.
  • Repeal New Powers Given to the Secretary of HHS. Nearly 1,700 times in the new health bill (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), the secretary of HHS is given new authorities to write regulations, issue definitions and decide on the fate of Americans’ health care. Congress should be empowering patients and physicians, not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
  • If You Like the Health Plan You Have, You Can Keep It. President Obama promised that Americans who like their health-care plan would be able to keep it. However, the Congressional Budget Office has said that millions of people will lose their current coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, for many Americans, the reconciliation bill is even worse news, as it made changes to some grandfathering provisions. The changes to grandfathering provisions would mean that individuals with guaranteed renewable plans in the individual market will NOT be able to keep their current coverage at the current price, but would immediately be issued a new policy and charged more. This amendment strikes changes to grandfathered plans, so Americans who like the health care they have actually can keep it.
  • Implement Republican Ideas President Obama Has Endorsed To Crack Down on Waste, Fraud and Abuse. The president’s proposal for health reform, released on Feb. 22, 2010, highlighted nine Republican ideas to combat waste, fraud and abuse. This amendment includes each of those policy provisions which have been endorsed by President Obama. Certainly Washington politicians should be serious about stemming the hemorrhaging of taxpayer dollars lost to waste, fraud and abuse. Senators will have an opportunity to vote on proposals which have received bipartisan support, and which the president has endorsed.
  • Ensure Nondiscrimination For Providers Refusing To Perform Abortions and Respect for the Rights of Conscience. This amendment would ensure health-care providers are not forced to participate in abortions or discriminated against because they choose not to perform abortions. The federal government should never require health-care providers to violate their deeply held moral, ethical or religious beliefs or discriminate against them because they choose to exercise their consciences and not be involved with abortion. This amendment would protect health-care providers from being required or coerced to perform abortions.
  • Exempt Class I Medical Devices from New Taxation. Taxing latex gloves and band-aids is not health reform and only increases the cost of health care for patients. This amendment would exempt all Class I medical devices – such as band-aids, wheelchairs, hospital beds and surgical gowns – from new federal taxation.
  • Motion to Commit Bill to Committee and Return In Compliance with President Obama’s Promises. During his presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama repeatedly made several promises related to what health reform would accomplish. The bill he signed today breaks those promises. This amendment would send the reconciliation bill back to the Finance Committee and direct the committee to report back out a bill which would allow him to keep his promise.