Jason Altmire: UPMC's Boy in D.C.
Sometime soon, I'll take more about John's fine website and columns, available at: http://jchawkinsassociates.com/
I'll also be referring readers to excellent sites developed by Rodger Morrow of Sewickley, PA, and Mary Grabar, Ph.D., of Stone Mountain, GA. People like John, Rodger, and Mary represent the future of American conservatism, and I'm proud to count them as friends.
Somone I don't count as a friend is the newly elected "congressperson" (his term) from PA's 4th congressional district: Jason Altmire. He ran a three-phased campaign to defeat incumbent Republican Melissa hart -- one part spleen, one part vitriol, and one part a cesspool of falsehoods.
Melissa is one of the kindest, most competent people in politics. When Republican strategists (including me) told her to "cut the legs off" Altmire, she refused because it wasn't her way to do politics.
I pay careful attention to events in the 4th District, mainly because I live in it (Ambridge). The primarily Democratic area consists of various counties, including most of Beaver and parts of Allegheny.
For all I know of Altmire, he could almost be an imaginary figure. The only words I ever heard the man say during a long campaign were the following: "I'm Jason Altmire, and I approved this message."
Generally, the "message" consisted of unsubstantiated allegations against Rep. Hart, accompanied by unflattering photographs of her. At one point, an Altmire commercial used an Iraq vet to claim falsely that Hart -- supported by every major veteran's organization -- had voted against medical care for wounded vets.
A pro-Altmire ad paid for by an independent committee linked to extrme left-wing Democrats claimed Melissa had been "caught red-handed" in accepting contributions from energy suppliers. Caught "red-handed" makes a perfectly legitimate activity sound like thievery.
I'll have a great deal to say about Jason Altmire over the next two years -- after which I trust he will be an ex-congressperson from the 4th District.
I believe he received backdoor funding from UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) sources -- specifically, through a contribution from Congressman Jack Murtha's campaign committee. (More about that later.)
One major problem I have with Altmire is that he portrays himself as a "health care expert" -- although originally the claim was "a health care policy expert." Whichever he claims to be, he's neither.
Apparently, he's mainly a shill for his former employer, UPMC. That huge hospital chain and health insurer provides the key to understanding Jason Altmire.
Who is he exactly? Before he resigned in June, 2005, to run for Congress, Altmire served as
"Acting Vice President for Government Relations and Community Health Services for UPMC, an 18-hospital system with 40,000 employees and $5.5 billion in annual revenue."
Careful readers will focus on the term "Acting . . . ." That means Jason's job was to sit in the vice president's chair until UPMC found somebody who merited a permanent role.
That is, he was something of a bench-warmer, about the same role he once played as a fifth-string wide receiver on the Florida State Univeristy football team.
The "government relations" phrase in Altmire's old job is corporate doublespeak that means he was a lobbyist for UPMC's policy positions. In that role, his job was to do everything he could to enhance the company's revenues and profits -- period.
But in what way is Rep. Altmire still UPMC's boy? Consider his position statement on health care:
"Altmire will work to make health care more affordable and accessible for everyone and to guarantee that patients' medical decisions remain in the hands of health care professionals, not insurance company bureaucrats."
That basically means health care professionals -- such the administrators and doctors at UPMC -- can charge as much as they want for services. In that effort, they are not to encounter any pesky concerns about cost rasied by the insurance companies, who pay the bills.
That's not exactly a good way "to make health care more affordable and accessible."
And who, pray tell, is to control the uncontrollable: the costs of American medicine? It's not going to be the insurance companies, and it certainly won't be a Congress overflowing with Jason Altmires.
Right now, the costs per capita for medical care in this country are at least 50% higher than in any other developed country, including Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. However, we don't live any longer than people in those countries -- and our infant mortality rates are higher than theirs.
In life, you usually get what you pay for, but in health care that's often not the case.
Unfortunately, Altmire's messages to the administrators and doctors at UPMC are these: Charge as much as you can get away with! Then, go ahead and buy that second vacation home in Aruba!
The next column will also deal with Congressperson Altmire, particulary his curious stance on the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. I'll also reveal some shocking information about the hospital's top administrator and his views of UPMC.
(To examine UPMC's penchant for overcharging patients, refer to my 11/21/2006 column on the subject.)