A bill to cover catastrophic health-care costs for senior citizens and other Medicare patients is again causing controversy in Utah's 1st District Congressional race.
Democrat Gunn McKay has constantly attacked Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, for missing the vote on the Medicare Catastrophic Act of 1988 because he was giving a speech in Las Vegas.On Thursday, Hansen announced he is adding his name to legislation that would delay implementing the bill for a year. He said better ways to fund it must be found because it places hefty surtaxes on many senior citizens.
But that action brought quick criticism from McKay's press secretary, David Dixon.
"If he had a problem with the bill, why wasn't he on the floor of Congress to deal with it when it came up instead of going to Las Vegas to collect honoraria? This is a last-minute attempt in an election year to hide the fact that he let down the senior citizens of Utah when the bill came up."
Hansen has said he was in Las Vegas for the speaking engagement only because it was on his way to California where a new grandchild was to be blessed.
Hansen said he has begun to hear "an outcry of disbelief and rage" about the way the catastrophic health bill is funded.
"When the act was considered by the House in June, we were told that the income tax surtax would affect only `higher income' taxpayers. We now know that higher income would begin as low as $12,700 for a single person and $20,100 for a married couple.
"Consequently, anyone over age 65 who is eligible for Medicare will be required to pay an additional $22.50 for every $150 of tax liability. If a senior citizen owes $3,000 of income tax in 1989, he will pay approximately $450 of new income tax. Almost 50 percent of the people over 65 will pay this new tax."
Hansen said that a need exists to address the problem of catastrophic health- care costs. "Huge hospital and physician bills can devastate a family savings, but agreeing that a problem exists does not justify endorsing a proposal that benefits very few seniors while burdening the majority with the highest tax rates of Americans though the imposition of a 15 percent" surtax.
He said the program should be put on hold to allow the "government to create a framework in which the private sector is encouraged to provide adequate insurance protection."