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Health care law changes and debate continue

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Rep. William L. Owens, a Plattsburgh Democrat, joined House Republicans in a mostly symbolic vote last week to veto a portion of President Barack Obama’s 2009 health care law.

The vote demonstrated the evolving nature of the lengthy, landmark legislation and the continuing political perils of Mr. Owens’s original “yes” vote.

“I knew in a bill of this size there would be issues that needed to be revised and redone,” Mr. Owens said. “I think you have to have the courage and the intellectual maturity to be able to say, ‘This is working, this isn’t working.’ If it isn’t working, we need to change it.”

Mr. Owens voted to end the Community Living and Assistance Services and Support Act, which would have provided long-term care to people who voluntarily paid premiums while they were working-aged. It was designed to care for the elderly or disabled. Long-term care, like nursing homes, serves as one of the biggest cost-drivers in medicine.

But the Obama administration announced last year that CLASS was dead. Its projections were unrealistic, and the program wouldn’t be implemented. Because of that announcement, repealing the act wasn’t necessary, a so-called messaging vote that won’t pass the Senate.

“Based upon what the administration was indicating, the analysis that they were using, when put into practice, didn’t work,” Mr. Owens said, explaining why he voted to repeal it.

The CLASS Act was expected to pay for itself, and then some. The legislation’s proponents said that in its totality, it would pay down future deficits. But when the Obama administration realized that the CLASS Act couldn’t be implemented, that cost-saving was reduced by about 40 percent. Mr. Owens justified his original vote by pointing to the cost-saving measures.

Mr. Owens’s potential Republican opponent in November, Matthew A. Doheny, pounced on the vote, calling it an about-face.

“My opponent has little to show for his two votes for ObamaCare, except for the loyalty he returned to the Democrats who spent millions to get him elected hours before the first vote,” Mr. Doheny said in a news release.

Mr. Doheny supports selling health insurance across state lines and allowing healthy individuals to buy catastrophic plans that would cover a limited raft of conditions.

Mr. Owens’s staff said that the congressman doesn’t believe that’s enough to lower health care costs and raise the ranks of the insured. In 2005, the Congressional Budget Office analyzed a plan that would allow health insurance to be sold across state lines and concluded it wouldn’t lower the ranks of the uninsured and would save $12 billion over eight years, according to a report in the Washington Post.

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