Congressman Joe Barton ad-dressed a standing room only crowd in attendance at the Ellis County Republican Party’s meeting Thursday evening.

As guest speaker, the Ennis/Arlington Republican reviewed the national health plan being pushed by House Democrats.

“We have one of the best health care programs in the world, but there is room for improvement,” Barton said in his opening comments. “As one of the senior leaders in the house, I am against this plan. I am not against our health care programs, but there are better answers.”

Barton went through the effects of the proposed program on individual heath care plans and employer benefit plans.

“Employers would be mandated to provide health insurance. Then their plans would have to meet the approval of a review committee. This added burden could cause businesses to cut employees to meet the expense of a more expensive program,” he said.

“Another option to the small business owner would be to pay an 8 percent payroll deduction tax.

Their choice would be to pay 72.5 percent of an estimated $12,000 health care plan or pay 8 percent of the employee’s salary. On the national level, the average income is $40,000. Many employers will opt for the small percentage and let their employees go to public plans,” Barton said, explaining the employer’s role in the proposed program.

Using himself as an example, Barton spoke of when he was diagnosed with heart trouble several years ago while in Washington.

“Within an hour and a half, I was on the operating table, talking with a doctor and he and I were making choices for my health care. There was no delay for screening boards or limitation for me as to available care.

‘It’s not rocket science how to fix this,” Barton said, outlining steps that would include health care providers making fees and charges more visible. He suggested setting up health care pools amongst other plans for individuals to participate in.

Concluding his presentation, Barton pointed to a chart about the proposed plan, saying, “You can make a choice. You do not need all these boxes to get health care.” Commenting on its chances of passage, he said, “The president and speaker will try to ram this through Congress at the beginning of the next session in 2010.” 

“As senior representative, I’ve led the fight against this in the committee. I think we ought to junk this and sit down, with a clean sheet of paper with both Democrats and Republicans together and draft a reasonable plan,” Barton said.

Barton fielded questions from the audience, including several relating to immigration, saying several times that any health care plan should stipulate that, to participate, an individual must prove U.S. citizenship.

“We do not want to deny health care to anyone who requires critical lifesaving care, but for those with minor problems, they can seek other sources,” he said.

Asked what the Republicans have done about improving health care, Barton described many improvements to Medicare and Medicaid as well as other programs approved and signed by the current and past presidents.

Another question from the floor concerned the special committees and czars President Obama has put in place, with Barton responding, “You will have to go and ask the president about them.” 

Relating to Medicare and veterans benefits, Barton said Medicare will be drastically cut, with many programs, such as wellness, eliminated. Veterans benefits are exempt, he said.

Barton encouraged people to vote, showing his voter registration card and saying, “This not a lifetime membership – it has to be renewed every two years. I think everyone who votes for this should be held accountable at the ballot box.”