Federal Legislation
May 18, 2010

S. 1796—“America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009”

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted on its version of the health care bill Tuesday, October 13, 2009, and it passed 14–9. The Democratic leadership in the Senate merged this bill with the health care bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, substituted this merged bill into H.R. 3590, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010. Read about H.R. 3590 in our analysis of the Senate “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

Summary:
“America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” is the Senate version of health care reform that was written by a bipartisan group of six senators known, sometimes, as the “gang of six.” The House version of health care reform is H.R. 3200, “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.” While we know that reform is needed in the health care industry, S. 1796 creates new home visitation programs that concern homeschoolers. These programs would threaten parental rights and allow the federal government to expand its involvement in early education.

Status:

9/15/2009Introduced and Referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
10/13/2009Passed by the Senate Finance Committee 14–9
10/19/2009Placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.

Sponsor: Senator Max Baucus (MT)

Bill Text (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

HSLDA’s Position:
Oppose.

Talking Points:

“America’s Health Future Act of 2009” establishes home visitation programs by adding an amendment to the Social Security Act: S. 1796 on pages 453–480 will “establish a new state grant program for early childhood home visitation.” The states that receive these grants must establish goals for the next 3–5 years to:

  • Improve maternal and newborn health;
  • Prevent child injuries and reduction of emergency room visits;
  • Improve school readiness and achievement;
  • Reduce crime or domestic violence;
  • Improve a families economic self-sufficiency; and
  • Improve the coordination and referrals for other community resources and supports.

“America’s Health Future Act of 2009” could lead to politically influenced parenting classes that pressure parents to raise their children how the government dictates. All the details 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 childrearing 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.

“America’s Health Future Act of 2009” will result in a huge increase in federal involvement in the home: While S. 1796 does assure that participation in the home visitation programs are voluntary, we are still concerned in the increase of federal involvement in education and home visitations that have been handled by the state and local officials in the past.

Once a state applies for a grant the federal government requires that a needs assessment of the state’s districts be done to identify “at-risk” communities. They will then become priority homes for the home visitation programs. An “at risk” home must be indentified as being:

  • Low-income;
  • Have a pregnant individual under 21;
  • Have a history of substance abuse or treatment;
  • Have a user of tobacco product in the home;
  • Have children with low student achievement; and
  • Have a member of the household in the armed forces.

HSLDA sees these assessments made by the government as an invasion of privacy. Not only will states need to submit reports to the secretary of health and human services on these home visitation programs but they will be required to report to the federal government all the additional home visitation services that the states currently provide.

If by the new home visitation program’s third year a state fails to meet its set goals, a new goal plan will need to by drawn up with technical assistance from the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and the secretary’s self-appointed advisory panel. The new plan will have to include “provisions for the secretary to monitor implantation of the plan and conduct oversight of the program, including through submission by the entity of regular reports to the secretary.”

“America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” costs are questionable: The bill is over 1,000 pages, yet it was not even published and read by the senators in the Finance Committee before they voted on and passed it. The Finance Committee voted on a 200-page summary of the bill. Based on this summary, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) declared that the bill would reduce deficits by a total of $81 billion over 10 years. However, since actual bill text had not been seen, the CBO’s analysis could not be final. CBO Director Elmendorff said on October 7 that the “CBO and JCT’s analysis is preliminary in large part because the Chairman’s mark as amended has not yet been embodied in legislative language.”

“America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” could affect jobs: S. 1796 defines a large employer to be anyone with as little as 50 employees. The bill states that a tax will be imposed on any “large employer [who] fails to meet the health insurance coverage requirements.” The fees employers will have to pay would most likely come out of the employees’ salaries, staff reductions, or a raise in product or service costs. In fact, the CBO Director Elmendorff said that “if employers who did not offer insurance were required to pay a fee, employees’ wages and other forms of compensation would generally decline by the amount of that fee.”

“America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” could result in government and employer funded abortions: S. 1796 does specifically bring up the issue of abortion. The bill does not define abortion as an “essential benefits package.” However; it does mandate that at least one plan in every state covers abortion. If the government subsidizes a plan that offers abortion, American’s healthcare premium dollars will go towards those abortions.

“America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” will expand the federal government: Page 195 of S. 1796 mandates that “beginning after June 30, 2013, the individual is required to be covered by essential health benefits coverage for such month. If an applicable individual fails to meet the requirement…for 1 or more months…there is hereby imposed a tax.” The federal government will make sure that all citizens are in compliance with this regulation with new federal income tax forms where your coverage will be identified and tracked. For documentation, health insurance companies will also be required to fill out annual reports on your health coverage.