Thursday, July 23, 2009

GUEST COLUMN: "Federal Government Takeover of Health Care is not Reform" by Rep. Schmidt

By Rep. Jean Schmidt

The United States is home to the best doctors and hospitals in the world. We are blessed to be living in a country on the forefront of cutting-edge, life-saving technology and pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, the rapid advances in medical care and treatment that we have seen over the past few decades have come with a steep price tag. Ever-increasing costs of medical coverage have left many Americans without access to the life-saving treatment many of us take for granted.

President Obama is correct when he says that the costs associated with our current health care system are unsustainable. Too many Ohio families cannot afford health care coverage and too many Ohio employers are struggling to provide coverage for their employees. As costs for coverage continue to climb, the quality of the coverage we have continues to decline. Having insurance that doesn’t pay much is little comfort to those that rely on coverage when we need it.

There is broad support in Congress for reforms that will increase competition, make coverage more affordable for families and individuals, ensure coverage for pre-existing conditions, and allow individuals to retain their health care when changing jobs. Unfortunately, the health care reform bill that Speaker Pelosi will bring to the House floor in the near future will actually increase the cost of health care coverage, mandates a government take over, force people out of their current coverage and lead to the loss of millions of jobs.

Under the Speaker’s plan, the Federal government would establish minimum coverage requirements for acceptable health plans. Individuals will be required to be covered. If you choose not to obtain coverage or can not afford coverage, you will be penalized 2.5% of your Modified Adjusted Gross Income. Employers with a payroll exceeding $250,000 will be required to provide acceptable coverage to all of their employees. Those who choose not to provide coverage or cannot afford to do so, will be penalized 8% of their payroll costs. According to the non-partisan Lewin Group, these provisions will cause 114 million individuals to lose their current health coverage.

The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that all of the changes to our health care system will cost almost $1.3 trillion -- at a minimum. To pay these costs, the Speaker proposes to impose a surcharge on individuals earning more than $280,000.

Unfortunately, of taxpayers who file in the top income brackets, more than half are small businesses filing as individuals. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, 68% of manufacturers file as individuals and they have an average payroll of $570,000. Using a formula developed by President Obama’s own economic advisers, these tax increases will lead to the loss of 4.7 million jobs.

At a time when our economy is in the throes of a deep recession and Ohio’s unemployment rate has topped 11%, we should be working to increase employment and actually lower the costs of health care coverage. This plan does the opposite. In fact, in recent Congressional testimony, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office said that this plan would actually increase the costs of health care coverage as well as increase the federal budget deficit.

We can and must do better. I stand ready to work with my democratic colleagues to improve our health care system. Let’s start over and work in a bipartisan way to accomplish this important goal for the American people.

But, let us first agree to some core principles. No one should be forced to accept worse coverage than they already have. No one should be forced to change doctors. Finally, we should all agree that the easiest way to help those that don’t have and desperately need coverage, is to reduce the cost of everyone’s coverage.