Friday, August 07, 2009

GUEST COLUMN: Rep. Bob Latta on Health Care

By Rep. Bob Latta

As Congress begins its August district work period, the House of Representatives continues to debate the health care proposal introduced by the House Democrat Leadership. H.R. 3200 is a massive overhaul of our nation’s health care system that will put the federal government in control of the health care of millions of Americans. Even though the House of Representatives will not vote on the reform until September or later, President Obama and Congressional Democrats are trying to force this bill through Congress at breakneck speed, and continue to disregard the large number of Americans opposed to this legislation. In the House, Speaker Pelosi has shut out minority Republicans from having any input. I continue to hear disappointment from my constituents in the Fifth District on the speed at which this bill is moving through Congress. According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, by a margin of 2:1, Americans think that a government takeover of health care would be a “bad thing.”

While negotiations continue on this legislation, we do know for a fact that whatever plan is approved by the Congressional Democrat Leadership, it will not be inexpensive. Thus far, this legislation is estimated to cost over $1.28 trillion in new federal spending over the next ten years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In order to pay for this plan, the House Democrat plan creates a new “surtax” that will amount to a tax hike of $544 billion over the next ten years. This new “surtax” will raise rates by 2 percent on individuals with incomes between $350,000 and $500,000, 3 percent on individuals with incomes between $500,000 and $1,000,000, and 5.4 percent for individuals with incomes over $1 million. As more than half of all high-income filers are small businesses, this will directly impact job growth and creation, further hindering the economic growth small businesses create in the United States. President Obama’s Chief Economic Advisor, Dr. Christina Romer, estimates that this small business tax would eliminate over 4 million jobs nationwide. Ohio is suffering with an unemployment rate over 11%, and with a national unemployment rate approaching 10%, we simply cannot afford to lose more jobs.

In addition to the flaws behind the funding mechanism for this legislation, I believe the health care policy itself will do more harm than good to our nations’ health care system. The Lewin Group, a nonpartisan health econometrics firm, estimates that two out of three workers will lose their current coverage, including over 114 million people who receive health benefits through their employer or other current coverage. Additionally, over 8 million Health Savings Accounts will not be deemed “acceptable coverage” under the Democrats plan, forcing those people into the government plan. I believe people should have the choice to keep their own insurance, or Health Savings Accounts, if they are satisfied with their coverage and not be subjected to government intrusion into their personal choices. Under the House Democrats health care proposal, this plan would be administered by yet another level of federal bureaucracy in the form of a Health Care Commissioner who would have unprecedented authority to determine what is acceptable health care coverage for people under the government plan and set all of the rules for what health care coverage must include. Furthermore, this Health Care Commissioner would determine what treatments patients could receive and not receive, and at what cost. Actions by the Health Care Commissioner would essentially ration health care among individuals under this plan, and lead to gaps in coverage and further regulation on which doctor you could visit and how often you could seek treatment. The last thing patients and doctors need is the government coming between them and guiding the choices made regarding their personal health care needs and treatment. Senior citizens will be especially hard hit under the House Democrat plan as well. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that provisions in the current plan would lead to a total of $162.2 billion in cuts being taken from Medicare Advantage plans that provide a choice of health care options to seniors. These harmful and arbitrary cuts could result in Medicare Advantage plans dropping out of the program, harming beneficiary choice and causing millions of seniors to lose their current coverage; other seniors could see premiums rise or additional benefits curtailed.

House Republicans agree that health care reform is one of the most important issues facing our nation and the House Republican Conference wants to be part of the solution. We are committed to making quality health care coverage affordable and accessible for every American, regardless of preexisting health conditions, and allowing those who like their current health care coverage to keep it. House Republicans support health care reform that puts patients and their health first, and protects the important doctor-patient relationship. Small businesses also need the ability to pool their resources to provide coverage for their employees, which will not only expand coverage but also lower costs. House Republicans also support the freedom to purchase insurance coverage across state lines. Medical liability reform is another way to lower health care costs and should be included in any package considered by the House.

Simply put, the health care reform package put forth by the Democrat House Leadership will only lead to further government intrusion and bureaucracy, increased costs for all Americans, and rationing of coverage. Congress should focus on legislation that will improve our health care system, not destroy it, as I believe the Democrat package will do. I oppose any plan that puts Washington bureaucrats between patients and the care they need. I believe that we can reform healthcare without putting medical decisions in the hands of government bureaucrats. We should not trust the future of our health care to this risky experiment.