Polls indicate that Americans are generally pleased with the health care they get. But, they would like easier access to it, as well as some help in taming the costs that too many families and businesses are struggling to afford. Unfortunately, that’s not what they got when Congress enacted health care reform legislation last year.
Instead, the new law delivered new taxes, more debt, and a mandate to be covered by health insurance that will actually cost more. The uncertainty and mandates created by the new law could actually lead to the loss of more jobs – the Congressional Budget Office forecast the loss of a half percent, or roughly 650,000 jobs. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) predicted the new health care law would destroy some 1.6 million jobs – almost two thirds of those from small businesses. And, Republicans on the House Budget Committee estimated the new law would cost some $2.6 trillion, and add another $701 billion to the deficit over the next ten years.
There can be no doubt that our health care system needs some reform, however, this was not the kind of “reform” we needed.
So this year, with the start of a new Congress, we have an opportunity to make this right. We can start by repealing the health care law that was enacted last year. Then, we should work together to fix those things that we all agree need to be fixed. We can drive down the cost of health insurance by expanding the use of Health Savings Accounts, allowing the formation of Associated Health Plans, allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines and reforming the medical malpractice system. Let’s increase the use of high-risk pools so that individuals with pre-existing conditions can afford to purchase health insurance. And, let’s make health insurance portable so that people aren’t trapped in jobs that make them miserable just for the health insurance benefits.
Accomplishing these goals would be a great start, but we need to approach this task with a bit of caution and humility. We are tinkering with one-sixth of our economy and – more importantly – a system upon which people’s lives depend. It has given us the best doctors and hospitals in the world and put us on the cutting edge of life-saving technology and pharmaceuticals.
To start this process, the House of Representatives is scheduled to cast two votes on January 12th. The first would repeal the new health care law. The second would call for legislation replacing the new health care law to be produced.
Next week we have the opportunity to get health care reform right. Let’s take advantage of this while we still can.