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October 30, 2017 - 7:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, chris collins, NY-27, taxes.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement applauding Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady’s decision to include a state and local property tax deduction in the House Republican tax reform bill.

"I am pleased that Chairman Brady has agreed to keep the SALT property tax deduction in the new tax reform legislation. It goes to show you that leadership does listen to the concerns we as members point out. Now, New York taxpayers are poised for a big victory when federal tax reform provides them with more money in their pockets and better economic opportunity. It’s time for Andrew Cuomo to follow our lead and deliver comprehensive tax reform when it comes to the state income and property taxes New Yorkers pay."

The Ways and Means Committee is expected to release its tax reform legislation on Wednesday. For more information on the unified framework for fixing our broken tax code, click here.

Here's CNN's story on the status of the deductions.

October 26, 2017 - 12:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Today Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement after voting in support of the Senate-passed budget that paves the way for tax reform:

“Passing the budget was essential to getting tax reform completed without the threat of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. We have set the stage to pass a tax reform bill that will drop corporate tax rates, put the United States on an equal playing field with the rest of the world, and lower the tax burden on small businesses. My colleagues and I are committed to sending President Trump a tax reform package in the coming weeks that will lead to explosive economic growth, create jobs and put money back in the pockets of working families.”

The budget passed 216-212. Here's more from the Washington Post.

October 24, 2017 - 1:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, notify.

There are eight people who have active files with the Federal Elections Commission, making them eligible for a primary campaign in June 2018 for New York's 27th congressional district.

Rep. Chris Collins is the incumbent and is one of the eight who has filed.

Not all who have filed are running, but even among the announced candidates, an incumbent being targeted by both primary and general election challengers is unusual.

His campaign chief Chris Grant said he isn't worried.

"We live in very fluid political times, so people, especially on the Democratic side, whip themselves into a frenzy because they believe, wrongly, that the country agrees with their progressive, extremist positions and then they run into the reality of running against an incumbent congressman who is very popular in his district," Grant said. "I'm not surprised by any of it."

The seven people with FEC filings are:

  • Kevin Aleong, who has no party affiliation but does have a campaign website;
  • James Banks, a Republican, whom we wrote about yesterday;
  • David Bellavia, who ran against and lost to Collins in a primary in 2012, and has yet to express his intentions for 2018;
  • Sean Bunny, a Democrat, who has said he's running but has yet to make an appearance in Genesee County;
  • Erin Cole, a Democrat who has reportedly dropped out of the race;
  • Michael McHale, a Republican who ran in 2006 but has made no announcement about 2018; and,
  • Nicholas Stankevich, a Democrat who was in Batavia yesterday to announce his candidacy.

Frank Smierciak II, a 26-year-old Republican, has also announced his intention to challenge Collins in the primary and got a lot of attention from the media for running at such a young age, but he has yet to file with the FEC.

The fact there are Republican challengers also isn't a concern, Grant said.

"Every cycle now, people get into the fall of an off-year election and they think there is an opportunity and then the reality of qualifying for the ballot and running a real campaign rears its ugly head before they reach February, March, and April," Grant said.

Collins is popular in his district, even with an ethics investigation hanging around, and it hasn't hurt Collins at all that he was an early and vocal supporter for Donald Trump for president and continues to be loyal to Trump.

Trump is perhaps more popular in the NY-27 than any district in New York.

"It's not Trump," Grant said. "It's because of what Trump said, Trump's message."

Collins was out in front on the issues that drew people in the 27th to Trump, Grant said, such as "destructive trade agreements, and jobs being shipped overseas, and a Washington culture of elitism that ignores the people in districts like the New York 27."

Challengers to Collins are perhaps a bit out of touch with reality in the 27th District, Grant suggested.

"I think all of these candidates watch way too much cable news, pay too much to the Acela corridor press and whip themselves into a frenzy about a race they can’t win," Grant said. 

He added, "The progressive resistance movement is nonsense. It's so out of touch with what middle-class working families care about. It just shows they don't understand what people care about in the district."

As for Bellavia, the one candidate who might come into a race with some name recognition, Grant had no insight on whether he's actually running.

Last night, The Batavian emailed Bellavia, a resident of Batavia, about the FEC filing and his only response, "You noticed that?" He didn't respond to a follow-up message pressing for more clarity and confirmation.

"David's his own man and we respect him and we respect his service (Bellavia is an Iraq War vet), but we're going to fight hard for every vote in the New York 27," Grant said.

October 24, 2017 - 11:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Nicholas Stankevich, NY-27, batavia, news.

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With a promise to focus on people and jobs, a Mumford resident, Nicholas Stankevich, stepped behind a lectern placed in front of the entrance of Batavia High School yesterday and announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the 27th Congressional District.

Stankevich has just finished a tour of the school led by Pat Burk, chairman of the Batavia City Schools District trustees.

Burk said he was endorsing Stankevich because the candidate would support education and favor policies that continued the flow of funds from the federal Department of Education to local school districts.

"Districts require a certain level of cooperation and funding from the federal government in order to provide for many of our neediest students," Burk said. "Programs that are called upon daily to aid and assist our children are in jeopardy under current conditions and this administration."

Burk then discussed some of the programs that assist students and educators that are threatened, including Medicaid, nutrition programs and programs to promote new technology and training.

"Nick Stankevich will work with our local educational leaders to understand the needs of our students and the families that we serve," Burk said. "He will work to maintain a high level of funding that is needed to provide for our neediest children."

When asked for specifics on his education policy, Stankevich said that's a work in progress.

"There is this is a lot of work to be done," Stankevich said. "It's holding people accountable. And like I said before, as the campaign goes on we'll get into more specifics on legislation."

As he said before, he doesn't yet have specifics on his "people and jobs" platform.

"As we unfold more and as the campaign goes along we will be releasing specific policies and specifically to jobs," he said.

A lifelong resident of Western New York, Stankevich described himself as both an educator and small businessman. His first business, of five, was a swim school, which he said he ran successfully for 12 years. Currently, he is in charge of marketing for his parents' bed and breakfast in Mumford. He holds an MBA from the Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management in Los Angeles. On his LinkedIn profile, he also lists himself as cofounder (with his brother Jason) and CEO of a startup technology company based in Los Angeles, Instrekt. The company describes itself on Crunchbase as,"... an Airbnb style, trusted community-driven marketplace for people to list, discover, and book activity-based lessons around the world."

His experience, he said, prepares him to focus on jobs, jobs for people.

"There are many different ways to do economic development and mine would be more of a people-first approach that helps the community," he said.

He said he decided to run because he sees so many problems around us.

"Just stepping outside your door, looking down the street," Stankevich said. "You know there's there's a lot to be done in all of our communities and I believe that we need new leadership and we need a new direction."

October 23, 2017 - 6:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, James Banks, news.

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James Banks says he's just an average grandfather from Western New York who wants to see if somebody who is just a regular guy can get elected to represent all of the 27th Congressional District, not just a favored portion of it, or if monied-interests will win out again.

He's running a low-key campaign to try to upset Chris Collins in the NY-27 primary.

He stopped in Batavia today to discuss his nascent campaign and political ambitions.

Banks has nothing against Collins personally, though he does believe he could represent the district better in Washington.

"I think Mr. Collins is a great businessman," Banks said. "As such, he's a risk taker. I have great respect for him. He was a great county executive in Erie County. He's a family man. I have no personal conflict with Mr. Collins all."

However ... 

"He has seemed to indicate that he does not have an obligation to be responsive to his constituents in terms of holding a town hall or some kind of communication, regular communication work, where he's going to hear the good and the bad and the ugly," Banks said, "where he can just realize that it's people not trying to attack him personally but just trying to participate in government."

Banks is a lifelong Republican from Lancaster who voted for Ronald Reagan when he cast his first presidential ballot in 1980. He's worked in industrial sales for 25 years, which has enabled him to travel extensively throughout WNY so he knows the district well, he said. 

This is his first attempt to win public office.

On policies, he describes himself as a fiscal conservative.

"I think the debt that we have incurred is a great danger to our country and that it ought to be addressed and, really, brought under control," Banks said. "How we do that? I don't pretend to have all the answers but I would make that a priority."

He also favors free trade.

"I'm a free market capitalist," Banks said. "I think that the approach of alienating many of our best customers around the world is a little bit shortsighted. As a salesman, I'm always looking for more customers, not fewer customers."

He doesn't oppose a border wall if officials conclude that's the best way to secure our borders, but he recognizes that immigrants built this country and there should be a place for them in 21st Century America.

"I went down to Journeys End Refugee Services in Buffalo, which has been there a long time bringing legal immigrants into the country and helping them set up a new life," Banks said. "I can't even imagine the places that these people came from.

"When you hear about the stories of Rwanda, South Sudan, and I've met people from Pakistan, from Iraq, I can't even imagine what those people have gone through to get to America.

"I think we should be more welcoming. And I think it's good economics.

"At the end of the day you get great people coming in who may look a little bit different than you or have different beliefs, but you all share the core beliefs that you love your family, you love your community. You love your state you love your country."

He's not interested in making decisions for other people on how they live their lives.

On abortion, he said, "I've actually read the opinion, Roe versus Wade and I've kind of weighed that against the 14th Amendment, which protects citizens and persons. So it's a tough question, but I'm not the guy who's going to go to a young lady in distress and try to lecture her on the most difficult choice she can ever be faced with. That is best left to her, her parents, her preacher, her doctor, her relationship with God."

On gay rights, he said, "It's really none of my business. I'm concerned with myself and my own relationship with my wife of 35 years."

He does think we should watch over our environment.

"I think it's a no-brainer that if we don't have a healthy environment to live in, then basically nothing else matters," he said. "I'm not a climate fanatic but I I try to do my part in terms of recycling. But it's a huge mistake and to deny that we have challenges -- that is foolish."

He is a fan of the beauty of Western New York and he isn't a fan of people on the national stage who run it down.

"When you look at Clarence, Orchard Park, Hamburg, the suburbs around Rochester, the Finger Lakes, this is an awesome place to live," Banks said. "When I hear a presidential candidate, as in the last election besmirching our home by saying Western New York is a disaster or Upstate New York is a disaster -- just look at Buffalo look at Rochester, look at Syracuse look at Albany, it's a disaster, I kind of take that personally.

"You know this is my home. It's your home. Do we have problems? Absolutely. Should we work together to solve them? Yes. I have no doubt, you know, but it is far from a disaster."

Banks hasn't formally announced his candidacy yet. He is looking for volunteers to help pass around petitions so he can qualify for the primary ballot. Banks said he can be contacted through the LinkedIn page he's set up for the campaign.

October 17, 2017 - 11:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Charles Schumer, chris collins, NY-27, news.

Sen. Charles Schumer is using the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to draw attention to the potential impact of the GOP-proposed tax plan would have on WNY, including in the congressional district of Rep. Chris Collins.

Schumer said that in the NY-27, 29 percent of taxpayers take a deduction for paying state and local taxes for an average deduction of $12,125.

The GOP plan calls for the elimination of the deduction. 

“Eliminating the state and local deduction, while slashing taxes for the wealthy and huge corporations, will hurt middle-class taxpayers, and various attempts at a ‘compromise’ are just as bad," Schumer said in a release. "If the Republicans cap the state and local deduction too high, they will still blow a huge hole in the deficit. Cap it too low, and they’ll continue socking it to the middle class. And forcing people to choose between the state and local deduction and other deductions is like offering to taxpayers to cut off one hand or the other."

We asked Schumer's office for data on Genesee County and locally, a press aide provided a link to the Tax Foundation, which shows the average state and local tax deduction for Genesee County is $2,257. (The formula for this calculation appears to be different then the calculation presented by Schumer's office in the second paragraph above. That formula is the average of the 29 percent taking the deductions; this formula, according to the article, is an average of all filers in the county.)

To claim the deduction, filers must itemize their deductions, which might include things like health care costs, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions. 

Filers who don't itemize can take the standard deduction, which is currently $6,350 for single filers and $12,700 for married couples.

The current GOP tax plan calls for simplifying deductions and increasing the amount of the standard deduction. 

Collins expressed support for elimination of the state and local tax deduction in an interview with The Batavian last year when we produced our series on Trump, trade and the local economy.

“When Vice President Pence arrives in Buffalo today, I hope he’s prepared to explain why he wants to hike taxes on thousands of middle-class families in the Buffalo area and across the country," Schumer said. "It hurts the middle class; it hammers the New York economy; and, it undermines property values."

October 13, 2017 - 3:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Turn 27 Blue believes that the breaking news about Rep. Chris Collins' serious ethics issues makes it absolutely clear that the voters of New York's 27th District deserve better from their member of Congress.

The coalition of grassroots leadership and the eight-county Democratic chairs who make up Turn 27 Blue call on Mr. Collins to leave all corporate boards on which he serves and divest himself of all investments that create potential conflicts of interest and begin immediately to do the job he was elected to do: serve as our congressman and actually represent us rather than his portfolio.

"It has never been more obvious that the term 'Representative' is misapplied when it comes to Chris Collins, and the decision released today by the House Ethics Committee to continue its investigation of him reinforces that," said Judith Hunter, the Livingston County Democratic chair. "His actions prove that his priorities are his own bottom line and those of his cronies', not the interests of the hard-working voters of New York 27."

Jeremy Zellner, the Erie County Democratic chair, pointed out that, "Just because an investment goes bust doesn't mean you didn't try to use your public office for personal gain. Failing doesn't make it all OK. And Collins continues to this day to pad his own pockets but not deliver for Western New York."

"I wish I were in a position to make laws for my own personal benefit, but I'm not. Chris Collins shouldn't be, either. And he shouldn't be trying to 'make millionaires' out of his buddies," said Amber Hainey, of GLOW Progressives. "He should be focused on the ordinary people of this district, not just the rich and powerful he sees as his constituency."

Jeanne Crane, Democratic Chair of Orleans County, noted that Collins' statements about his ethics troubles have all focused on Congresswoman Louise Slaughter's role in bringing the original complaint, even though ordinary citizens also filed their own complaints.

"My part of Orleans County used to be represented by Congresswoman Slaughter, and I know how hard and how long she worked to get the STOCK Act against insider trading by members of the House and Senate passed," Crane said. "No wonder she is furious that a neighboring member of Congress would so recklessly violate the spirit of that law.

"You know, just shrieking the words 'witch hunt' over and over again doesn't change the fact that the Office of Congressional Ethics felt the evidence was serious enough to warrant a full investigation of Mr. Collins, and today the House Ethics Committee agreed."

September 28, 2017 - 4:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Bethany, news, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today announced $785,000 in federal funding for the Town of Bethany. This $785,000 was awarded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Water and Waste Disposable Loans and Grants Program. The Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program provide funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary waste disposal, and stormwater drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.

“The USDA’s Water and Waste Disposable Loan and Grant Program is a prudent use of federal funding that helps rural communities here in Western New York provide reliable access to clean water for its residents,” said Congressman Chris Collins. “Constructing Water District #2 has been a top priority for the Town, so this funding is certainly welcome news for Bethany residents.

"I was glad to work with Supervisor Hyde to secure this critical USDA funding that will undoubtedly improve the quality of life both in Bethany and in Genesee County.”

The Town of Bethany has been awarded a USDA Rural Development loan of $785,000, which will be used to address health code issues associated with a number of the Town’s water wells. In addition, the Town of Bethany intends to create Water District #2, a project that is estimated to cost $1,354,000, which will extend public water service to 40 residential and one other user in the Town who currently do not have access to safe potable water.

“First and foremost I want to thank Congressman Collins for his support of this critical USDA program,” said Carl Hyde, J.R., Bethany town supervisor. “Because of this funding, residents of Bethany will now have access to clean drinking water and I am glad to know Congressman Collins supports keeping the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program intact.”

To learn more about the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, including eligibility requirements, please click here.

September 27, 2017 - 4:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement in support of the U.S. House of Representatives Republican framework on tax reform that was released today:

“Updating our nation’s tax code will be one of the most important accomplishments we will see under President Trump. The House Republican framework is what will truly make America Great Again by making our country more competitive around the world and allowing families to keep more of what they earn.

"Lower corporate tax rates and repatriation of dollars that are overseas will directly stimulate investment and job growth in Western New York and around our country. It’s time for Congress to follow President Trump’s lead and fix the broken, outdated tax system that has burdened hard-working individuals and has crushed our economy."

For more information on the House Republican tax reform framework, click here.

September 26, 2017 - 12:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, agriculture, business.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) met with United States Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta today to discuss expanding the H-2A Agricultural Visa program. This program allows agriculture employers to hire workers on a temporary basis to fill seasonal jobs. 

Under the current program, America’s agricultural employers that require year-round workers are met with challenges as it relates to finding a legal, experienced workforce. The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy. Both crop and livestock farmers depend on affordable labor, yet an oversight in the H-2A program has put the latter at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining workers.

“I’ve talked with hard-working farmers across Western New York who are struggling because they are unable to retain year-round workers,” Collins said. “Our dairy farmers especially are burdened with an H-2A program that does not allow them to hire the individuals they need to milk cows, feed livestock, and maintain the herd.” 

The agriculture industry is vital to the Western New York economy. Collins’ Congressional District includes almost 5,000 farms, which produce more than $1 billion of products sold each year.

Collins said one area of the H-2A program that needs improvement includes changing eligibility to include year-round agricultural operations such as dairy, nursery, and fresh-cut operations. The meeting with Secretary Acosta was based on the fact that the Department of Labor (USDOL) has the ability to make rule changes that would immediately amend program guidelines.  

“I urged Secretary Acosta to take action on this issue now. Western New York’s and America’s farmers can’t continue to be burdened by these ineffective rules and regulations while waiting for Congress to act,” Collins added.

Collins was joined by Members of Congress from across the United States who also discussed streamlining the H-2A application process. Recommendations presented would reduce redundancies and improve operating efficiencies.  

“I am committed to working with President Trump, Secretary Acosta and my colleagues in Congress to make the necessary reforms that are good for our agriculture industry, and in turn, good for our economy.”

September 24, 2017 - 3:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, agriculture, batavia, news, notify.

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Local farmers and other members of the agriculture industry were briefed Saturday on various legislative issues by Rep. Chris Collins and a member of his staff.

The topics discussed included immigration, the new farm bill, the Waters of the U.S. rule and even a couple of non-agricultural items. The meeting was held at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office on East Main Street, Batavia.

Legislative Assistant Taylor Kloustin provided an update on key issues Collins is working on, including the H2A work visa program, workforce legislation, the upcoming effort to pass a new farm bill, and Waters of the U.S. rules.

Collins is meeting next week with the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, to discuss immigration issues, most notably expanding the H2A visa program to allow workers from other countries to stay in the United States all year long when employed in certain farm jobs, such as dairy and livestock.

She said Collins is also interested in seeing the program revised for temporary workers so that they can get back into the country easier once they've established ongoing employment, such as a TSA-like precheck, perhaps with a biometric ID card.

There's also legislation pending that would move responsibility for farm labor from the Department of Labor to the USDA, which Kloustin said is an agency more familiar with the needs of farmers for labor.

The committee working on the Farm Bill renewal is expected to have language in place by November.

Collins is chair of the specialty crops caucus so his office is working with United Fresh on setting up a specialty crops awareness program in November for House staffers working on the Farm Bill so they can better understand the needs of specialty crop growers.

Dean Norton, an Elba dairy farmer, was one of those who brought the conversation back during the Q&A time to the Waters of the U.S. rule. The rule was approved during the Obama Administration and Trump has rescinded it by executive order. Farmers were upset by the bill because it could be used to regulate the smallest bodies of water on farms.

Norton and other farmers noted that what can be undone by executive order can be reimplemented by executive order in the next administration. They encouraged Collins to pursue legislation that would make Trump's order permanent.

Craig Yunker, CEO CY Farms, expressed concern about the direction the Trump Administration is taking on trade. He's particularly concerned about the seeming protectionist positions of Peter Navarro, a trade advisor to the Trump Administration. Yunker said with the United States pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership there are already trade problems with Japan.

Collins said there's a lot of uncertainty about what will happen with trade during the Trump Administration because we're only eight months into his presidency. He thinks Trump has the right people around him, though, to handle the issue.

"Trump very clear at the U.N.," Collins said. "It’s America first; he’s going to look out for America’s interest. He is going to expect other countries to do their fair share. He's looking for fair trade.

"My worry is your worry," Collins added. "Typically, the retaliation is on ag. That’s the gotcha. Whether it’s Canada or whether it’s Mexico or whether it’s something like apples going to Asia, we do know they retaliate using ag. I share that concern, but the administration knows this. They’re smart guys. To me, it’s too early to tell."

Maureen Torrey, of Torrey Farms, a large grower of produce, said her big concern remains trade restrictions in Canada, which makes it harder to sell U.S.-grown produce north of the border, even though there is no restriction on produce from Canada being sold here.

"It’s pretty sad that within five miles of the border you have 95 percent the population of Canada and the only time I can sell is if they don’t have it and then I have to go through a process to have them to say 'yes, you can ship something', " Torry said. "We need to get that door a little bit more open."

One farmer wondered if the bipartisan spirit displayed by Trump when he reached a deal a couple of weeks ago with Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi is something the GOP leadership in both houses will pick up on and follow.

"To be honest I think Trump is going to lead it from start to finish," Collins said.

While Trump's deal on the debt ceiling and relief for the victims of Harvey and Irma may have shocked and even upset some members of Congress, the leadership is going to have to fall in line, Collins said. 

"I think he's telling Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, 'You better get behind me,' " Collins said. " 'I'm the president. I'm the CEO.' "

Collins said he's solidly behind the president on this point and thinks a lot of what the president wants to get done this congressional term, most notably tax reform, will require bipartisan effort. Even within the GOP, he noted, there are too many divergent interests for the Republicans to act unilaterally. 

"I applauded him for doing what he did, though others just thought it was the worst thing that ever could have happened," Collins said. "There are a lot of folks that want to protect their own turf, if you will, and they didn’t like it. But as I’ve said, 'How did we do on health care?' Not so good, and that’s something we unanimously agreed on until the rubber hit the road and the document’s there. That’s the whole problem."

The other non-farm issue to come up was North Korea.  

" 'Rocket Man', " Collins said with a chuckle. "I’ve got to give Trump credit. He is so good with nicknames. I think Rocket Man is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s poking at Kim Jong-un. It’s getting under his skin. And it’s appropriate. He’s going to be Rocket Man from now on.”

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Dean Norton, dairy farmer from Elba.

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September 23, 2017 - 4:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, Le Roy, news, NY-27, SAFE Act, 2nd Amendment.

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About 70 members of rod and gun clubs in Genesee County were at the Northwoods Sportsman Club in Le Roy this afternoon to fire one shot each at noon to protest the SAFE Act and express support for Rep. Chris Collins' bill to block the SAFE Act at the Federal level.

Both Collins and State Senator Micheal Ranzenhofer were on hand to participate in the "Shot Heard Around New York" event at precisely noon today.

Collins said his bill, the Second Amendment Guarantee Act, has a good chance at passage if it gets out of the Judiciary Committee for a vote on the House floor because the NRA has said it will score the vote if it comes to a floor vote.

Even though New York's SAFE Act is the impetus for the bill, many members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, recognize this isn't just a New York issue because their states could also pass bills that violate the Second Amendment.

"I absolutely support the 10th Amendment, states' rights," Collins said. "Some folks have said this is a Federal preemption of sorts, and I’ve tried to remind them what we’re doing here is preventing a state from restricting Second Amendment rights; just like a state cannot restrict First Amendment rights, a state cannot restrict religious freedom, and they should not be able to do as New York has done -- restrict Second Amendment rights."

The bill has not been popular in Albany, Collins said.

"Andrew Cuomo knows this is a real fight because we know how he does things," Collins said. "He threw a tantrum in his office. The report we got back was there were objects being thrown through the area. That’s typical of what we’ve heard of the governor.

"He knows once we get this passed he can sue us all day long, but we’re going to make sure it’s written in a way that we’re simply saying that a state cannot preempt federal law when it comes to restrictions or requirements on long guns."

Ranzenhofer thanks Collins for his efforts.

"Every year issues come before us and we stop a lot of bad legislation from coming through, but we need your help on this particular piece of legislation," Ranzenhofer said. "You know with our governor, he is not going to sign a repeal bill.

"That’s why I’m so thankful that Congressman Collins is leading this fight in Congress because when you can’t do it directly this is the option that we have, doing it at the Federal level and saying 'New York State, this is not going to happen.' "

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September 22, 2017 - 11:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron, news, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today announced $2,220,000 in federal funding for the Village of Wyoming and $2,858,000 in federal funding for the Town of Byron. This $5,078,000 was awarded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Water and Waste Disposable Loans and Grants Program.

The Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary waste disposal, and stormwater drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.
 
“Communities throughout all of Western New York deserve reliable access to clean drinking water,” Congressman Chris Collins said. “Constructing and maintaining water systems oftentimes are costly projects, but the Water and Waste Disposable Loan and Grant Program provides federal assistance to ensure rural communities, like the Town of Byron and Village of Wyoming, are still able to provide clean water for their residents. I’m proud to announce this $5,078,000 award and I know it will help residents of both communities grow stronger and healthier.”

The Town of Byron has been awarded a USDA Rural Development loan of $2,108,000 and a grant of $750,000, both of which will be used to address the lack of clean, accessible drinking water in the area. The Town of Byron intends to create Water District #8, a project which is estimated to cost $2,858,000, will extend public water service to 107 residential users in the town who currently do not have access to safe potable water.

“On behalf of the Town of Byron, myself, and residents of the affected area, we greatly appreciate the work that Congressman Collins has done on our behalf,” said Peter Yasses, Byron Town supervisor. “Most of the residents have had to haul drinking water in, and so this funding will address that issue and ensure we can provide adequate fire protection as well.”

The Village of Wyoming has been awarded a USDA Rural Development loan of $1,554,000 and a grant of $666,000 to assist with fund restorations and replacements to local water systems. The Village of Wyoming intends to address ongoing issues with on-site wastewater systems, which have been causing groundwater quality impairments within the Village’s public water supply.

This project, which is projected to cost $2,220,000, will provide a secondary source of water to 163 residential and commercial users and will ensure the Village’s water supply is preserved and protected.

“This is something our Village needed, as we have less than 500 village residents and only one water well,” said Nate Norton, Village of Wyoming mayor. “This USDA funding will allow us to redo our water system, which has been a priority of ours for years. This will have a significant and direct impact on the quality of life of for here in Wyoming and we thank the Congressman for his support. We look forward to improving our water systems in the near future.”

To learn more about the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, including eligibility requirements, please click here.

September 13, 2017 - 8:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, fire services.

Press release:

Today the House unanimously passed legislation introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) that would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and maintain a registry to collect data regarding the incidence of cancer in firefighters. H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, is the first step in addressing the detrimental health effects firefighters may experience when responding to fire emergencies.

“Sixteen years ago yesterday, on September 11th, 2001, we witnessed a horrible tragedy that will leave an impression on generations of Americans forever,” Congressman Collins said. “Through this tragedy, we witnessed the heroic actions of America’s brave first responders working and volunteering in the days and weeks to come. We lost many first responders during those attacks of 9/11 and we continue to lose more every year from ongoing health effects."

“Passage of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act is a major step towards improving the health and safety of our brave firefighters across the nation who head into danger despite the risks and keep our communities safe," said Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), who co-authored the bill. "The least we can do is seek to better understand the connections between the job firefighters do and risk of cancer, so we can then help mitigate those risks.”

A 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) determined that U.S. firefighters had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and related deaths than the general population. This study’s findings were determined by a small sample size, reflecting the enormous gap in research when it comes to the incidence of cancer in these men and women. Collins’ Firefighter Cancer Registry Act would ensure greater and more specific data was collected by establishing a comprehensive database.

“After NIOSH’s 2015 study, it was clear something needed to be done to ensure our nation’s firefighters had the best resources and equipment available to mitigate potential future health risks. This bill will help us study this deadly trend and the information we gather will determine what needs to be done to improve safety protocols for these brave men and women," added Collins.

If signed into law, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act would authorize $2 million in federal funds to the CDC from FY2018 to FY2022. Data gathered would include a number of potential risk factors, including but not limited to the status of the firefighter (volunteer, paid-on-call, or career), number of years on the job, the number of incidents attended, and the type of incidence. The collection of this data would allow for improved equipment, enhanced safety protocols and preventative techniques for our firefighters.

Earlier today, Congressman Collins spoke to the importance of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act on the House Floor

“This registry will go a long way towards improving quality of life for the men and women who devote themselves to saving lives,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (OR-02). “Coming from a region of the country currently being ravaged by wildfires, I am constantly appreciative of the men and women who go into these dangerous situations of fire and smoke to protect others. This national registry is another way for us to do more to protect them.” 

"The IAFC thanks Representatives Collins and Pascrell for their leadership in securing passage of H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017,” said Chief Thomas Jenkins, International Association of Fire Chiefs president and chairman of the board. “This legislation will help researchers to better understand the link between firefighting and cancer and help the nation’s fire service fight this significant health threat."

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act was advanced out of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on June 29, 2017 and was passed out of full committee on July 27, 2017. The next step in advancing this legislation is passage in the Senate.

For more information on H.R. 931, Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, click here.

September 8, 2017 - 2:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Today Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) voted in support of the READ Act, a bill to provide emergency assistance for hurricane relief, raise the federal debt limit, fund the government, and extend the national flood insurance program. This legislation extends government funding into December allowing the Congress to focus on tax reform.

“President Trump played an instrumental role in crafting this package fulfilling our obligations as a nation and proving he is our ‘negotiator in chief,’ ” Collins said. “Today was a perfect example that Congress can get things done with the right leadership, and now we have paved the way for tax reform.”

The bill approved today contains $15.25 billion in emergency funding to provide immediate response and recovery for hurricane-ravaged communities. Included in this amount is $7.4 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund, $7.4 billion in emergency funding for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to help those areas begin to rebuild, and $450 million for the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan program.

“My thoughts and prayers are with those recovering from Hurricane Harvey and the residents of the Southeast preparing for Irma,” Collins said.“We need to keep the government and FEMA up and running during a time of such unprecedented natural disasters. This was a first step in recovery efforts and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and President Trump to make sure these Americans are taken care of.”

The legislation included a temporary measure to allow government operations to continue until Dec. 8. The bill also contains a temporary extension of the nation’s debt limit, and a temporary extension of the National Flood Insurance program, also until Dec. 8.

“While this legislation addresses major challenges faced by our nation, it now means the Congress can focus creating the economic opportunities and job creation that real tax reform will bring,” Collins said.

For more information about Senate amendment to H.R. 601, READ Act, click here.

September 6, 2017 - 11:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chis collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) called for Congress to immediately enact a permanent solution to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program imposed by former President Obama and now rescinded by President Trump. 

In order to reach a quick resolution, Collins is cosponsoring H.R. 1468, the Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act, introduced by Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). 

The RAC Act provides five-year conditional legal status to undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as minors if they obtain a higher education, maintain continual employment, or serve in the United States military. These individuals are eligible for permanent legal status if they continue to demonstrate good moral character, including maintaining a clean criminal record and staying off government assistance for five years.

“Nearly 800,000 minors were illegally brought into this country by their parents. President Obama superseded the authority of Congress by issuing an executive order that was a temporary patch and provided no certainty to these children,” Collins said. “President Trump properly rescinded the Obama DACA program which protected illegal immigrants without Congressional approval.”

Collins said many of the immigration problems the nation is now facing are a direct result of the porous borders under the Obama Administration when millions of immigrants illegally entered the United States, bringing their minor children with them.

Now, President Trump has referred the matter to Congress for legislative action and to send a bill to his desk to be signed into law that gives these young people, so-called Dreamers, certainty with permanent legal work status. At the same time, Congress needs to make sure our borders are secure.

“Just like President Trump and other members of Congress, I recognize that these young men and women were brought to our county illegally, with no fault of their own,” Collins said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to create long-term certainty for these individuals.”

Collins also said it was time for comprehensive immigration reform to address areas such as H-2A and H-2B visas granted to temporary farm workers. In addition, he said it was time to address the estimated 12 million illegal individuals in the country.

“I’m a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform that keeps our borders secure and allows farmers to access a willing and available labor force. We need to use this opportunity to address the larger immigration issues facing our nation but cannot award citizenship to adults that enter our country illegally. Labor from undocumented workers is critical to Western New York’s agriculture community and we need to give these individuals the ability to gain legal work status.”

For more information on H.R. 1468, Recognizing America’s Children Act, click here.

August 30, 2017 - 6:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, notify.

collinsfundraiseraug302017.jpg

It took Rep. Chris Collins little time to turn news of a House Ethics Committee investigation into his financial dealings, and his continued involvement with the biotech firm at the center of the investigation, into a fundraising opportunity.

This morning, the Buffalo News reported that Collins has been re-elected to the board of Innate Immunotherapeutic and within hours Collins delivered a fundraising email to his supporters (and others on the list, including news media) into a request for a $12 donation (the price, he said, of a month's digital subscription to the Buffalo News) to his reelection campaign.

He didn't explicitly ask people to drop their subscriptions to the online version of the newspaper.

"Join us today and tell them we won't stand for their fake news," Collins wrote.

Controversy about Innate Immunotherapeutic and Collins involvement with the company have been swirling around the Congressman for months, including allegations that he bragged about making a lot of people in Buffalo rich on stock deals with the company, accusations that he steered other members of Congress to the stock, and speculation about whether he used his position in Congress to help pass key legislation that could have helped the firm.

When a clinical trial for drug developed by Innate showed negative results, the stock price plummeted and Collins reportedly suffered a paper loss of $17 million.

News broke two days ago that the House Ethics Committee was opening a probe into the stock deals. The Buffalo News followed up this morning with stories about the congressman's reelection to Innate's board and a story yesterday taking a closer look at what the probe means.

The term "fake news" grew out of a trend during the presidential campaign of completely fictional stories getting repeatedly passed around social media, no matter how outlandish and clearly false the stories were. The stories were generated by websites created with the sole purpose of making up fictitious stories in order to drive clicks and then generate revenue from ad networks.

President Donald Trump adopted the term to attack the legitimate media's truthful and generally accurate reporting of his administration. 

This isn't the first time Collins has referred to the Buffalo News, also a legitimate news outlet, with the false claim of publishing "fake news." Collins has offered no factual refutation of any reporting by the Buffalo News or other news outlets' reporting on the Innate dealings and ethical probe.

Collins’ Spokeswoman Sarah Minkel has told news outlets that the ethics announcement had been expected and denied Collins had engaged in any wrongdoing.

“Congressman Collins has followed all ethical and legal guidelines when it comes to his personal investments and he looks forward to their review," Minkel said.

August 22, 2017 - 9:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, chris collins, news.

Press release:

“I applaud President Trump for standing by the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women, and sharing with the American people his commitment for meeting key objectives in Afghanistan. His candor that we are not building a nation, but are stopping terrorists before they can ever darken our door again here at home is appreciated.

“It is time for other allies like Pakistan to contribute to victory. It is also time for us to engage the enemy on our terms with the guidance of our best military minds, and not under time constraints and quotas established by politicians.

“Tonight, Donald Trump demonstrated one of the reasons why America elected him to be President. That is to confront and defeat America’s enemies making our nation and its citizens safe in the world.”

August 11, 2017 - 11:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, opioids, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today reacted to President Trump’s announcement that he will declare a national emergency on opioid abuse:

“I stand with President Trump in recognizing the extreme severity of the opioid crisis in America and applaud the steps being taken to find solutions to this devastating problem. Far too many lives have been lost and we have seen firsthand the tragedy that so many families in Western New York and across America face.”

Congressman Collins is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee that crafted the 21st Century Cures Act, which provided $1 billion in grants to address the crisis. Of those funds, $25.3 million were awarded to New York state. In May 2016, Collins voted in favor of 18 bills that address addiction among our veterans, to babies infected with this disease, to current pain management best practices.

“I applaud Governor Christie and his team for their diligent work in finding solutions for treatment and prevention. Opioid addiction can impact anyone, and we will continue to combat this crisis as a team because more needs to be done."

As a member of the Health and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittees, Collins has participated in six subcommittee hearings discussing the government and states responses to the crisis, fentanyl, and professional and academic perspectives.

For more information on the work of the Energy and Commerce Committee on opioids, click here.

August 3, 2017 - 2:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, healthcare, news, notify.

chriscollinswithdonaldtrump2017.jpg

President Trump at a meeting with Chris Collins, right, and other members of Congress.
Photo: Getty Images. Copyright 2017. Published with permission.

The future of health care coverage for some Americans has become uncertain. If your employer provides health coverage through an HMO or PPO, you're probably OK. If you're on Medicare or Medicaid, you're probably OK. But if you're one of the 51 million of U.S. residents who must buy your own coverage, you might be watching the news coming out of Washington with concern.

After seven years of promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans in Congress have been unable to do either. Now, President Trump is threatening to defund the CSRs (cost sharing reductions) that help insurance companies contain coverage costs. He may not be able to do that, at least in New York, but there are other actions Trump can take to hamper the health care exchanges. The funding reductions and uncertainty are creating turmoil for insurers and consumers alike.

There are a reported 5,074 Genesee County residents who purchased their health insurance through the New York exchange for 2017.

A month ago, The Batavian spoke with Rep. Chris Collins at length about his views on health care, with a follow-up interview last week, and learned that Collins doesn't think anybody needs worry about their coverage. When the House repeal and replace bill, the American Health Care Act was still alive (at the time of our first talk), he was confident that bill would be better for New Yorkers. Last week, when the so-called "skinny repeal" was still on the table (it since failed in the Senate), he thought whether it passed or not, New Yorkers would still have no trouble getting the coverage and care they needed.

The Congressional Budget Office has issued reports saying from 15 million to 25 million Americans could lose health benefits if either of those bills passed, but when pressed, Collins maintained there remained viable ways for anybody who needed coverage to get coverage.

Collins believes we have the best health care in the world, that Medicaid should be the same in all 50 states, that Republicans will never support universal health care, and he plans to continue the push to shift the cost of Medicaid from county taxpayers to the state.

"My buddy just had two grandchildren that were born twins two and a half pounds each," Collins said. "They finally just came home at six pounds. In days gone by the outlook for those kids would not have been good. The advances are tremendous in this country. I think we stand alone in this country with many of those and there's a cost that goes with it. We can get better everywhere. We have to go step by step but we've got to get rid of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). That's imploded."

That implosion, Collins said, is not because of anything the Republicans did -- eliminating support for risk corridors, creating uncertainty about the future of funding for individual market insurance, blocking the expansion of Medicaid, and not working on amendments to the original language of the act; rather, Collins said, it is because the ACA was doomed to fail.

"It was a house of cards that was never realistic," Collins said. "I called it out for what it was on day one."

On risk corridors, that was a flawed plan from the beginning, he said.

"I'm saying they (insurance companies) gamed the system," Collins said. "They priced the product low when they knew they would be reimbursed by the government. That all turned to mask how bad Obamacare was. It was masked for three years through this risk corridor reimbursement. Well, now the emperor's got no clothes and we see him standing there naked. That's what ended up happening when we stopped (the risk corridors). Now they have three years of actuarial data to know where it's got to be priced and sure enough, Blue Cross Blue Shield just announced a 47-percent price increase."

There are reports that the insurance companies are owed an more than $5.8 billion. Collins said they are owed nothing.

"They got their money," Collins said. "They got their money and now they have three years of actuarial data. They should be on their own."

Provisions in the Affordable Care Act such as risk corridors were meant, according to groups such as the Kaiser Foundation, to provide safe guards for insurance companies against taking on a wave of people with pre-existing conditions.

Remember, before the ACA, those $51 million Americans in the individual pool could be denied coverage if they didn't already have insurance or changed insurance -- such as going from an employer-based plan to an individual plan -- if they had a pre-existing condition, or that condition might not be covered. The ACA, which became law in 2009 and took effect in 2014, made that practice illegal. Risk corridors were intended to recognize a period of instability while insurance companies took on millions of people who had been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions all in a short period of time.

The risk corridors were not directly funded by the Federal government. It was expected that some insurers would under estimate and some would over estimate their costs. The risk corridors set a range of acceptable variance and then used profits from above that range to reimburse insurers who fell below that range.

Collins contends no insurance companies were profitable in the first three years of the ACA, or profitable enough to fund the risk corridors. 

"The young and healthy did not sign up," Collins said. "They are not signing up. Therefore the people in these plans are sicker. Those are the ones who flocked to them. There was never any money on the surplus side to give to the companies who all, in a race for the most patience, I would say negligently, priced their products knowing their losses would be covered by the federal government for a period of time. That was the house of cards. Set to fail. And it has failed. It was not anything the Republicans did."

According to a study by Common Wealth Fund, some insurers lost their shirts under the ACA while others raked in record premiums. Then, in the first quarter of this year, health insurance providers had their most profitable quarter ever. The volatility over the past three years in the health care exchanges is exactly what you would expect to find in a newly created market, according to a paper co-authored by conservative economist Craig Garthwaite.

The loss of risk corridor protection isn't the only shoal in the storm weathered by the Affordable Care Act.

There were more than 100 lawsuits filed against the ACA, some of them backed by Republicans. The fact that some of those challenges prevailed is evidence, Collins suggested, that the health care insurance law was bound to fail.

"This was a fundamentally flawed plan trying to get universal health care," Collins said. "The biggest issue was the Supreme Court struck down the exchanges being mandated across the country. That was the beginning of the end. That was not the Republicans. That was the Supreme Court ruling on an unconstitutional aspect of Obamacare. This thing was bound to fail."

The Affordable Care Act was meant to help lower the cost of health insurance for the approximately 51 million Americans (in a nation of 302 million adults, or 17 percent of the population) who are not covered by employer-provided health insurance or already receiving Medicaid or Medicare. Most of these Americans, prior to the ACA, did not have health coverage.  Since passage of the ACA, an additional 20 million people in the United States now have health insurance.

The ACA expanded Medicaid (though some states rejected the expansion) to include low-income workers (that's about six million of the 20 million mentioned above). There are also more people covered under their parents' plans because the law extended required coverage for children up to age 26.

A key provision of the ACA -- and one most reviled by conservatives -- is the individual mandate. The mandate was intended to push healthy young people toward signing up for insurance so their premiums (because on average they wouldn't require care resulting in claims) would help keep costs down for people with more health concerns.  People in the individual market who don't buy insurance can be assessed a tax penalty. 

The bill also required companies with more than 50 employees to provide insurance. Like the individual mandate, this provision has been unpopular and one report said as many as 22 percent of small businesses are hiring few workers as a result.

One thing Collins believes about the ACA is that the bill was really a trick to institute universal health care in the United States.

"The Democrats want universal health care," Collins said. "No if ands, or buts. Hillary Clinton wanted that. Barack Obama wanted that. They never could get there and that's when we ended up with the abomination that I call Obamacare."

At the time the ACA passed, the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate, with enough votes in the Senate (58 Democrats and two Democrat-leaning independents) for Obama to get through just about any legislation he wanted, including single-payer, Medicare-for-all, or any other universal system.

The ACA seems to be largely based on proposals first put forward by the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. That that is not an indisputable fact. Stuart Butler, a Heritage director, says it's not true but there are documents out there that show Heritage and Butler pushing coverage for all Americans with an individual mandate.

At the time Butler was offering any kind of proposal for health care, Bill Clinton was president and Hillary Clinton was heading a commission aimed and creating universal health care for the nation. To counter the Clinton plan, Republicans were proposing alternatives, including the Heritage plan.

Republicans remain steadfastly opposed to universal health care, Collins said, even though Trump has seemingly promised just that during his campaign for president.

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said on Jan. 11. “We’re going to have a healthcare that is far less expensive and far better.” 

In an interview with 60 Minutes in September 2015, he said, “I am going to take care of everybody. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

Collins deflected questions about Trump's promises.

"I don't speak for the president," Collins said. "I would say on the campaign trail he talked about a lot of different topics."

And in response to a follow-up question, Collins said, "The life I live is here now, and Republicans will never support universal health."

Interestingly, not all conservatives agree. The American Conservative has recently published two columns suggesting that within five years Republicans will embrace universal health care and that universal catastrophic coverage is what is best for the nation.

Collins is opposed to universal health care, he said, because he believes it's inferior to what we have now.

"(I) would point to the situation in Europe certainly the situation in Canada where we have Canadians pouring over the border to get health care that's just not available within their universal health care system," Collins said. "You look to Europe; the elderly are denied health care. The ROI is not there, whether it's a new hip for it or something else -- how old are you? What's your life expectancy? Some of the life-saving cancer drugs are not available in Europe from a cost perspective because those nations budget health care." 

According to this op-ed in the Denver Post from 2009, the idea that Canadians come here for routine coverage is a myth, through when Canadians do come to the U.S. for care, for whatever reason, their universal healthcare plan covers their medical expenses. (Colby Cosh, a journalist in Canada, read the Denver Post piece after I sent him a link on Twitter and he said, "Some of its plain nonsense, like 'no waits for urgent care', obviously."

There does seem to be some issue with the elderly being denied care in Great Britain (care rationing), but apparently, that is not how their care should be handled since they can sue if denied care.  

While there is a report in England recently of patients being denied expensive treatment, those same treatments are available elsewhere in Europe, and American pharmaceuticals tend to be substantially less expensive in Europe than the United States.

The idea, however, that drugs make health care more expensive for Americans, is a myth, Collins said.

"There's so much misinformation out there," Collins said. "For instance, if you surveyed the average American they will tell you the biggest cost driver and the biggest problem we have are prescription drugs. That's what they say. But that's not the reality. As I understand that prescription drug coverage is nine percent of health care cost. Ninety-one percent is everything else. So if all these, and they are expensive drugs, and as I just illustrated through my ill-venture down in Australia, nine out of 10 drugs are going to try and fail, there's a huge cost. It's got to be recovered one way or the other but you're simply not going to have new R&D and new drugs to cure the next disease."

Pharmaceutical research, however, is not a totally free-market system. While drug companies fund about $60 billion of the $100 billion spent on R&D each here, about 1/3 of that tab is paid for by taxpayers (with the rest covered by charitable contributions). Many drugs are formulated based on publicly financed research and some drugs are developed through a public-private partnership.

Even so, Collins expressed no interest, when asked, about reforming the current patent law system that gives drug makers monopoly pricing on drugs, though he did say he supports making it easier for patent-expired drugs to enter the generic market.

"None of us would ever suggest that anything's perfect," Collins said.

He said he's especially interested in reducing the approval process around what is called "biosimilar" drugs. Biosimilars are the same in every respect to FDA approved drugs, except for some inactive ingredients. The process for biosimilars was supposed to be reformed under the ACA.

While not addressing the patent issue, he said he would like to see new drugs get to market faster.

"It begins with things that we've done, that I helped with, with the FDA and the 21st Century Cures Act, to get drugs to the market quicker," Collins said. "I sat down with the administrator of the FDA and asked her about her personnel needs and the skill set she needs to get drugs to market quicker, to save lives, to treat illnesses, to treat debilitating diseases because the quicker they get to market the cheaper they'll be. There's a cost. Whatever it does and it takes you eight years to get it to market, and we can get it down to five years, we can save the net cost, and I believe it will be substantially reduced."

Whether the Republicans the Republicans let the ACA die, repeal it outright, repeal and replace it, Collins doesn't believe that people are going to die for lack of health insurance.

The poor, he said, will continue to be covered by Medicaid. As for people not eligible for Medicaid, nobody will face bankruptcy because they can't afford health care.

"We, Republicans, and everything we've said are they don't have to go bankrupt," Collins said. "That's was the old system. The old system said, because it was no safety net whatsoever, you have to go on Medicaid. The only way to get on the Medicaid was to go bankrupt. Well, that's not where we are today. Where we are today -- we don't know where it's going to end but certainly, American Health Care Act said very simply, you can get insurance."

It might be expensive insurance because if you were without insurance when you developed what carriers would consider a pre-existing condition, the insurers could charge you premiums that are 30 percent higher for 12 months.

"You are perhaps in that uncomfortable slice of working poor and your numbers didn't work and you did not have coverage through your employer and you made the decision to not carry that insurance," Collins said. "There were other things that took priority in your life. We're not going to now force you into bankruptcy, which was the old way. What we said is there would be a 30 percent added cost for 12 months then you would go back into the community rate. Personally, I think that is a pretty fair compromise."

The AHCA seems to be dead, at least for now, and Collins defended it at length during our conversation. You can read his comments in the transcript (links to the full interviews below).

Even with the AHCA seemingly consigned to legislative history, Collins said the proposal he backed to provide mandate relief for cash-strapped counties hit with the high costs of supporting Medicaid isn't dead. He will continue to pursue that legislation, he said.

"John Fasso and I are going to continue to pursue our Medicaid language and find something else to attach it to because we have some other must pass stuff," Collins said. "We've got S chip that's got to pass. We've got some extenders that need to pass, so let's just say John Fasso and I are not giving up on the Medicaid piece regardless."

Many economists have raised concerns about the lack of free market mechanisms in health care, a key factor in driving up costs. Employer-provided health insurance distorts the market, creates what economists call the principle-agent problem (the ultimate consumer isn't making the key buying decisions) and information asymmetry (buyers have less information than sellers). Liberal economist Dean Baker has been especially vocal about the American Medical Association, which he labels a "cartel."   The "cartel" he contends, is able to artificially reduce the number of hospitals and doctors in the United States. to constrict supply and drive up costs.

The United States has only 3.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared to 3.7 in Canada and 4.2 in the United Kingdom. At 2.2 physicians per 1,000 people, the United States ranks 52nd in the world, though a tad higher than Canada or the United Kingdom. The United States spends more, much more, per capita on health care than any other nation on earth, yet ranks 43rd in life expectancy.

We asked Collins about the underlying causes of high health care costs in the United States and he didn't answer the question directly.

"Well there's one big issue and it's lifestyle," Collins said. "Two-thirds of our country is obese. Through that, all kinds of things happen whether it's diabetes, whether it's joints, whether it's heart, or whether it's cardiovascular. If you want to look up and down in health in the U.S., it's we got a weight problem. So what can we do? We got to talk about it. We've got to remind people of it. Health insurance companies now have fitness plans. Government plays a role and then people play a role. I'm just a firm believer in personal accountability. We make decisions good and bad. Certainly, our health decisions are more under our control, not to say that bad things genetically don't happen but there's an awful lot of the health care world that we do control individually. We're not doing a very good job."

PDF transcripts for full interviews:

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