During August and early September, I took the opportunity to meet with health care professionals and concerned citizens around our district. Whether individually, in small groups, or in large town hall meetings, people from every walk of life expressed to me their concerns about the federal takeover of health care being proposed by President Obama and leaders in Congress.
It is clear from reading the news and speaking with my colleagues that regular Americans across the country have sent the same clear message to their representatives as well.
No one disagrees about the need for health care reform, but the bill currently being considered in the U.S. House is too expansive and unwieldy to address the problems in America’s health care system. The current bill seeks to funnel people from private insurance into the government-run “public option.” Its massive price tag, combined with the sorry state of the federal government’s finances, will most certainly lead to rationing of care. The bill mandates federal intervention into end-of-life issues, which like all medical decisions; belong between an individual, their family, and their doctor.
The more the American people learned about the details of the bill, the more outraged they became. Most of us recognize this, but unfortunately, in his recent speech to Congress, President Obama did not propose the compromise he promised. Rather, he did little more than repackage the same program that the American people have rejected. He even tried to claim that his bill “would not cover illegal aliens” and “would not provide taxpayer-funded abortions,” even though he knew that specific amendments designed to block those exact outrages were rejected by Democrats in the Ways and Means Committee.
The next step with this legislation is really up to Congressional Democrats. It is my hope that they decide to start over, this time with a willingness to work with those of us who do not believe a federal takeover of the system is necessary. I have joined a number of my colleagues in proposing an alternative bill (H.R. 3400) that reforms health care in a way that reduces health care costs, maintains the doctor-patient relationship, and improves access to coverage for all Americans.
Our plan includes important safety net reforms in our plan so that the 10-12 million Americans who want insurance but cannot obtain it or afford it can be covered. America is the most generous nation in the world. That is why we establish reinsurance pools to cover Americans with pre-existing conditions who fall through the cracks of our current system. This plan would incentivize providers to work in settings like Community Health Centers, which are already providing high-quality care to underserved areas.
Our bill allows individuals and businesses to purchase insurance across state lines, increasing their insurance choices from perhaps a dozen carriers to over 1,300. This is in contrast to the current bill being discussed, which decreases competition by installing a government-subsidized public option into the marketplace to crowd out the private sector. Real competition in the private market helps reduce prices. A government-run monopoly will cost all of us, especially our children and grandchildren.
Our bill provides tax incentives for people to deal with the high cost of insurance by offering individuals the same tax breaks that corporations and other businesses receive. It also addresses the real problem of pre-existing conditions through more market-oriented solutions, by allowing states more flexibility to create high-risk insurance pools that are designed to address those who cannot otherwise receive insurance.
We encourage health savings accounts (HSAs) to give people more control over their health care. We increase transparency about how much tests and other medical procedures cost, so individuals have more tools to make the best decisions for their health and finances. We encourage businesses to reduce health insurance prices by allowing them to group together in association health plans (AHPs).
Finally, we have a unique feature in our bill to promote healthy lifestyles and reward healthy behavior by allowing insurance premium discounts for healthy habits. This concern was echoed by providers in meetings throughout our district, and it simply makes sense to implement such a feature.
Rather than a federal government bureaucrat serving as an intermediary, we realize that individuals and families are best served when a strong relationship exists between a patient, their primary and specialty health care providers. Our plan strengthens that relationship by reducing the practice of defensive medicine brought about by abusive lawsuits. Enacting medical liability reform will help reduce the price of medical malpractice insurance and defensive medicine, both of which are passed on to consumers through increased costs and higher insurance premiums. By establishing health courts, capping non-economic damages, and creating best-practices measures, we will eliminate frivolous lawsuits that harm physicians while also ensuring that justice is done to true victims.
Despite the President’s repeated insistence that Republicans have no solutions for health care, we do have a plan that would give coverage to all Americans, gives ownership and control to the patient, improves the health care delivery structure, and reins in out-of-control costs. As President Obama and Congressional Democrats continue work on their plan, the common-sense solutions delivered by Republicans should not be ignored. I believe Americans trust their health care professionals more than they trust politicians and federal government bureaucrats. They want to keep what they like best about their current plan while addressing some of the problems with cost, access, and portability. My trust rests in the ingenuity and compassion of the American people and the professionalism and competence of our health care professionals.