Sen. Susan Collins' chief of staff visits Belfast to talk about health-care reform

By Carol Weston | Dec 29, 2009

Belfast — Last week, Sen. Susan Collins' chief of staff, Steve Abbott, joined me in Belfast for a series of events to discuss health-care reform. During visits to Tall Pines Retirement Community, Waldo County General Hospital and the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Abbott explained why Sen. Collins would be voting against the proposal crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Sen. Collins, like a strong majority of Americans, believes Harry Reid's proposal is too big, too expensive and too risky. Her vote against the proposal was a vote against an expansion of government Americans cannot afford, and a vote against the threat this bill poses to our own health care and the relationship we have with our family doctor.

The response to Mr. Abbott's visit was extremely positive. Despite President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's promises to the American people that the debate over health-care reform would be inclusive, transparent and bipartisan, the crafting of this bill has been hidden from the public. Because those leaders in Washington have ignored the demands for transparency and have purposefully withheld details from the public, Mr. Abbott was eager to inform the people of what's at stake with this bill.

And there is certainly a lot at stake.

Buried throughout the 2,000-plus pages of this bill are skyrocketing private insurance premiums, billions in new taxes and fees, and a half-trillion-dollar cut to Medicare. Not to mention the use of our tax dollars to cut deals behind closed doors.

To win enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate, Harry Reid promised Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) a new hospital for his state. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) was promised an additional $300 million in pork for her state, and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) held out until Harry Reid promised him the federal government - the taxpayers, in other words - would pick up the entire tab for Nebraska's expansion of Medicaid.

Mr. Abbott also discussed the implications this health-care overhaul would have for our federal deficit. Some lawmakers have reported that the cuts to Medicare will actually increase our record-high deficit by another $300 billion, further burdening future generations of Americans.

There is no question America is in need of health-care reform. Premiums are too high, access to care must be expanded, and we must do more to reduce costs throughout our health-care system. Harry Reid's bill would make none of these reforms, and will do more harm than good, which is why it was unable to earn the support of Sen. Collins, Maine's senior senator, Olympia Snowe, or a single other Republican in the Senate.

Harry Reid's bill is not health-care reform. It is health-care rationing and health-care reduction.

Mr. Abbott did a lot to put peoples' minds at ease who were concerned with how Sen. Collins would cast her vote. And his visit sent a message that Sen. Collins and her staff will continue to engage the people of Maine as the health-care debate moves forward.

Harry Reid's heath-care overhaul has put our nation at a crossroads, but it is a comfort knowing Sen. Collins is fighting to put us on the right track.

State Sen. Carol Weston is a member of the Legislature's Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, and a member of the national Coalition to Protect Patients' Rights.

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