The most rewarding moment came when pro-life Democrats extracted a final concession from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership to allow for a vote on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which passed with 238 votes. Subsequently, the leadership pursued a vote on the bill's final passage, 220-215. While we applaud those principled members of Congress who saw the fallacy of Obamacare, we are equally distraught by the tremendous lack of wisdom exhibited by the remainder of the Congressional majority.
The sad reality is that congressional leaders still don't get it. They don't understand the entire outrage over the thought of a massive governmental grab to control health-care decisions that should remain in the private sector, solely between the patient and their physician. The expansion of health-care payments to be provided by the government to Medicare, Medicaid, uninsured and those who choose to be uninsured, and now expanded children's health care to extend to age 27, will essentially crowd out private insurance, effectively ending it being part of a competitive marketplace.
More troubling is the fact that in no instance is risky immoral behavior, such as alcohol and drug abuse, smoking and sexual promiscuity, a factor in determining health-care payments for premiums. Despite the fact that these lifestyle choices account for the majority of health-care spending, our political leaders are placing the care of children and those in need of care for diseases that occur due to no fault of their own on the same priority as diseases that occur due to poor choices.
Here in Alabama, we are facing a draconian scenario. The Riley administration has been put on notice that it must return up to $300 million in previous Medicaid matching funds due to dubious formulas used to obtain additional federal dollars to match Medicaid payments. Similarly, both state employee health coverage and that of the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan are projecting dramatic increases in premiums to cover increasing numbers of covered lives and claims. So far, the governor has done little to address this crisis, or the unemployment crisis.
Instead of a single focus on gambling litigation and legal maneuvers regarding no-bid contracts, greater attention must be focused on this looming crisis within our own state health-care system. Immediate negotiations with our medical teaching centers, private physicians, regional hospitals, pharmacies and other allied health-care providers must be entertained in order to make sure that quality care is continued to be available in our state at an affordable rate.
We must implement best practice models and expand competition for health insurance and open markets for truly innovative health insurance options such as health savings accounts. We must make physical education and sports activity a staple of public education in order to combat obesity. Physicians must be adequately compensated for the services they provide. The entirety of health services must focus on improving the productivity of the lives of the patients served, rather than performing medical tests to guard against potential lawsuits.
We must incentivise health, rather than health care, and provide an educational framework to improve the overall health, productivity and well being of our state and its vibrant workforce. We can do this, but we must have the will to succeed and tap the collective creativity of our health-care providers in order to accomplish these goals.
Randy Brinson is chair of the Christian Coalition of Alabama in Montgomery.