Friday, January 8, 2010

A Second Amendment In Health Care Reform

The National Basketball Association may frown on firearms possession and use, but don’t expect a basketball wellness program to know about firearms possession, at least not if one of my favorite provisions in the Senate health reform bill becomes law.

That provision would be Sec. 2717(c)(1) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, an amendment first proposed by Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (Ark.), Jim Bunning (Ken.), Robert Bennett (Utah), George LeMieux (Fla.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), and Michael Enzi (Wyo.); and later agreed to by majority leader Harry Reid (Nev.).

The provision adds to a quality of care and wellness section the following odd duck:

Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights. Wellness and prevention programs provided by group health plans and insurers may not require the disclosure of information relating to the possession or use of lawful firearms or ammunition.

In addition, HHS is prohibited from authorizing the collection of any information or the maintaining of records relating to the following:

  • lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition;

  • lawful use of a firearm or ammunition;

  • lawful storage of a firearm or ammunition.

The lawful possession, use, and storage of lawful firearms or ammunition also may not be used to increase health coverage premium rates, deny health insurance, or reduce or withhold wellness program discounts, rewards.

Why is this one of my favorite provisions?  Because reactions to it say a lot about how differently liberals and conservatives view the world and how difficult compromise has become.

Liberals I know (I am one of them) typically react to hearing about this provision with “Really! You are kidding, aren’t you?”

On the other hand, conservatives I know react with “Oh, sure, I understand why that’s there.”

Here’s the liberal take, from Slate Magazine.

Here’s the conservative take, from Gun Owners of America.

There is an almost palpable conservative fear of the future here, a fear of government takeovers, of confiscation of all firearms, and of an imminent socialist (if not communist) state). And there is an appalling inability of the liberals in power to allay these fears.

A health reform bill that enlarges the privatization of health care delivery, reinforces restrictions on abortion, and extends gun rights to wellness programs feels a lot like attempts to appease conservatives—attempts that clearly are failing. They also underscore the widening (and frightening) chasm between liberals and conservatives.

In 1992 Rodney King issued his iconic plea, “Can we all get along?” In health care reform, the answer is no.


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