The next stage of the health care reform debate started this week, after the Senate Finance Committee reported its bill on Tuesday afternoon. The Finance Committee legislation is being merged with a bill passed last June by the Senate HELP Committee by committee leaders and the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid. The merged legislation is likely to be presented to all 100 senators later this month.
I voted against the Finance Committee bill, not because I support the status quo, but because the bill didn’t do enough to drive down the high costs that are straining family budgets and making it harder for employers to offer coverage, especially small business employers. Legislation that doesn’t rein in runaway health spending will make existing problems worse, rather than better. In addition, most people’s insurance premiums would go up as a result of the Finance Committee bill, as early as next year. The Congressional Budget Office also said “premiums in the new insurance exchange would tend to be higher than the average premiums in the current-law individual market.” Finally, the bill would mean the biggest expansion of Medicaid since the program was created in 1965, taxes would be increased on families making less than $250,000 a year (according to the Joint Committee on Taxation), and the proposal would increase the size of government by $1.8 trillion when fully implemented.
Instead of creating a complicated new tax-and-spend plan, Congress should pass – with broad-based bipartisan support – fiscally responsible reforms to the health care delivery system that would increase quality and decrease costs. Congress should pass medical malpractice reform to reduce abusive lawsuits that drive up costs and at the same time limit access to doctors. It only makes sense to create an environment where doctors don’t have to engage in defensive medicine just to keep their practices open because somebody might sue them. Congress also needs to pass stronger rules for insurance companies to make coverage more affordable and accessible, especially for small businesses and for people who aren’t offered coverage by their employers. Reforms should stop discriminatory coverage of pre-existing conditions and ensure there are affordable health insurances choices.
I’ll continue to stay engaged in the debate, seeking fair treatment for rural health care and making sure Congress lives under the same new health care system it passes for the rest of the country. And, after the federal bailouts and stimulus spending this year, Congress must stop saddling taxpayers with unsustainable debt. It doesn’t make sense to pass health care legislation that gets in the way of economic recovery and sends the federal budget into a sea of red for decades to come.