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Johanns Places Paperwork Over Prevention

It is no secret that Sen. Mike Johanns is a vocal critic of health care reform for a multitude of reasons.  Most recently, Johanns has been fighting the “good fight” against health reform for small business owners nationwide who are being oppressed by… paperwork?  Yes, paperwork.  At last, we’ve found the real culprit for our economic woes.

The Johanns amendment would repeal the loophole-closing provision 9066 of the Affordable Care Act (a provision with widespread bipartisan support from the GAO, the IRS, and the Treasury Departments of both President Bush and President Obama).  Johanns aimed to remove the increased tax reporting that will reduce fraud and also increase tax revenues.

However, keeping this loophole open is just the beginning.  Johann’s amendment planned to make up the lost tax revenue by diverting billions of dollars from the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund.  The result is that 2 million additional individuals would not have health insurance, and all Americans would experience a 4% increase in premiums because insurance risk would be spread across fewer people. This means that money that should be spent preventing fatal diseases would be spent preventing paperwork.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida offered another amendment that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities deems a “far superior approach.”  Nelson’s amendment would have scaled back the provision to reduce scope and paperwork but makes up the revenue through reductions on excessive tax subsidies and loopholes for oil companies.  But even these reductions didn’t satisfy Johanns, who called Nelson’s proposal, “complicated, unfair and impossible to administer.”

What is really unfair is giving businesses a break while reducing preventative measures that save money and, more importantly, lives.  Thankfully, yesterday the Senate rejected Johanns’ amendment  by a vote of 52-46, with seven Democrats crossing party lines to support Johanns.  Nelson’s more mild amendment was also voted down by a strict 56-42 Republican party line vote (with Democrats Lincoln and Landrieu opposing) that did not gain the necessary super-majority.

Wasting no time, Mark Begich (D-AK) filed a new repeal amendment that is funded by unused stimulus money.  Democrats Stabenow, McCaskill and our own Ben Nelson have already signed on.  But with the small business bill going to a final vote on Thursday, Majority Leader Reid is unlikely to accept any more amendments.  Because really, the paperwork required for that would just be too much to handle.

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