Federal Legislation
May 18, 2010

H.R. 3962—“Affordable Health Care for America Act”

The “Affordable Health Care for America Act” was passed 220–215 by the House of Representatives on November 7. It was then sent to the Senate. Senator Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, instead of taking up H.R. 3962, created his own health care bill as an amendment to H.R. 3590, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010. To read about H.R. 3590, please visit our analysis of the Senate “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”.

Summary:
H.R. 3962, the “Affordable Health Care for America Act,” is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s signature health care reform bill. While the United States has one of the best systems of private health care in the world, most would agree that reforms are needed. Unfortunately, the “Affordable Health Care for America Act” has numerous flaws and would create far more problems than it would fix. The following points discuss some of the major flaws with this bill.

Status:

10/29/2009Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sponsor: Rep. John Dingell (MI)

Cosponsors:

Bill Summary and Status H.R. 3962

Bill Text (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

HSLDA’s Position:
Oppose.

Talking Points:

H. R. 3962 is too expensive: H.R. 3962 is 1,990 pages long. The federal government will collect penalties from individuals and employers who do not follow the new health coverage regulations, along with new income tax surcharges on high-income individuals in order to pay for this, since the federal government will shoulder more responsibility for health care costs. While the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that these taxes will cover the $894 billion net cost of this bill, Director Elmendorff said on October 29 that the “estimates are all subject to substantial uncertainty.”

H.R. 3962 establishes home visitation programs by adding two amendments to the Social Security Act: H.R. 3962 will establish a “Quality Home Visitation Program” and an “Optional Coverage of Nurse Home Visitation Services.” The states will apply for grants from the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and will use the federal grants to create or expand state-run home visitation programs. While these programs are not supposed to be forced on families, families who accept these services will have government officials entering their homes, monitoring their children, and teaching the parents how to raise their children.

H.R. 3962’s home visitation programs could encourage states to pressure families into these home visitation programs: Page 1182 requires states that receive grants from the federal government to “provide voluntary home visitation for as many families with young children and families expecting children as practicable, through the implementation or expansion of high quality home visitation programs….” While H.R. 3962 says that these visits will be voluntary, the states may have an economic incentive to increase enrollments in these home visits, and may pressure families to participate in them. This is especially likely because Page 1186 requires states that receive these grants to submit an annual report to the secretary of health and human services which includes the number of families in the home visitation program and retention rate.

H.R. 3962 could lead to politically influenced parenting classes that pressure parents to raise their children how the government mandates: Pages 1182–1190 set forth the requirements that states, which receive the federal grants, need to meet. Subsection (v) on page 1183 requires that the state home visitation programs provide parents with “knowledge of age-appropriate child development…knowledge of realistic expectations of age-appropriate child behaviors; knowledge of health and wellness issues for children and parents; modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices; skills to interact with their child to enhance age-appropriate development; skills to recognize and seek help for issues related to health, developmental delays, and social, emotional, and behavioral skills; activities designed to help parents become full partners in the education of their children….”

Pages 1045–1046 of H.R. 3962 provide that eligible first-time pregnant woman and families with children less than 2 years old will receive home visitation services “improving maternal or child health…increasing birth intervals between pregnancies, reducing the incidence of child abuse…increasing economic self-sufficiency, employment advancement, school-readiness, and educational achievement, or reducing dependence on public assistance.”

All of these detailed aspects of the home visitation programs are open to being politically influenced by government bureaucrats who may think that they know more about parenting than parents do. They may pressure parents to adopt child-rearing methods that are against the family’s religious beliefs. Home visitation officials may even threaten families with abuse and neglect investigations if the families do not choose to follow the official parenting education models.

Additionally, the program outlined in pages 1045–1046 of home visitation services to first-time pregnant women to teach about “increasing birth intervals between pregnancies” may result in government officials teaching young mothers about birth control or abortion services.

H.R. 3962 could result in federally funded abortion services: H.R. 3962 does not require abortion as part of “essential benefits.” However, it does mandate that at least one plan does cover abortions and one plan does not. If the federal government subsidizes a plan that offers abortions, an individual’s premium dollars can go towards other individual’s abortions in that plan.

H.R. 3962 will expand the power of the federal government: The bill would create a “Health Benefits Advisory Committee” which would consist of 20 to 26 members appointed by the president and comptroller general. The committee will recommend benefit standards and updates to the secretary of health of human services. This unelected committee made up of government bureaucrats will dictate what services a health care plan must provide.

The secretary of health and Human Services alone chooses whether to adopt the standards. There is no appeal process. The Secretary of Health and Human Services conducts audits and determines if plans comply with benefit standards. The secretary can fine an employer, or suspend or terminate the plan if the secretary deems the employer in noncompliance. The secretary may decide to require that health plans cover polarizing services, such as abortion, and all employers will be forced to abide by the secretary’s decision.

Additionally, HSLDA believes that the federal government does not have the authority to take over health care under the U.S. Constitution. You can view a video of Mike Farris discussing this.