WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 15, 2009 -
Thank you Chairman Miller. I appreciate the opportunity to speak, but I want to be clear that I wish we were here today under different circumstances.
Approximately 24 hours ago, we first laid our hands on this 1,018 page monstrosity that has the potential to upend our entire health care system. I’ve done my best, as have other Members on this side of the aisle, to examine the bill and understand its consequences. But in a day or even a week, we can only hope to scratch the surface.
I know the majority will tell us we’ve had about three weeks to review the discussion draft. There’s just one problem – the discussion draft isn’t what we’ll be asked to vote on. We’ve got 166 new pages, not to mention who-knows-what changes to the 852 pages we saw in June. These new pages no doubt address the very legitimate concerns raised by Members on the Democratic side of the aisle. Never mind the concerns on this side of the aisle, which I suspect have been largely ignored because we haven’t been given a seat at the table.
Mr. Chairman I believe the votes that we’ll cast this week will be among the most critical choices any of us ever make. Health care accounts for one-sixth of our nation’s economy. It affects jobs and family incomes. It represents one of the most trusted and sacred relationships in our society – the bond between patient and doctor. And Mr. Chairman, it is no exaggeration when I say that health care is a matter of life and death.
We have had precious few opportunities to debate health care reform during the 111th Congress, but when we have, I have tried to be absolutely clear in my intentions. I believe health care reform is essential, and serious reform must put policy ahead of partisanship.
On June 10th of this year, I said to Subcommittee Chairman Andrews: “Health care reform is far too important to get wrong. I come to this debate in good faith. I stand ready to work with you.”
On June 23rd, during a hearing on a draft version of the legislation, I said to Chairman Miller: “I continue to believe that Republicans and Democrats can – and should – come together to develop an American plan that will make health care more affordable, reduce the number of uninsured Americans, and increase quality at a price our country can afford.”
I meant it when I said those things, and I continue to feel the same way today. That’s why I’m so disappointed that we’re here to debate a partisan proposal developed behind closed doors that aims to give the federal government unprecedented control over the medicines, treatments, and medical care Americans receive.
There is no doubt our nation’s health care system is in need of reform. It costs too much, and too many Americans do not have access to adequate coverage or care.
Unfortunately, the plan developed by Democrats – and only Democrats –fails to solve these problems. Indeed, it stands to make our health care problems far worse with a system of federal mandates, bureaucratic limitations, and massive tax increases that will cripple our economy while degrading the quality of health care.
At the heart of this proposal is a bigger, more intrusive federal government. It anoints a “Health Choices Commissioner” whose role can only be described as Orwellian, looking over the shoulder of health care practitioners and – if the name is any indication – making choices that would be better left to patients and doctors.
The legislation empowers federal bureaucrats to dictate benefits that are – and I quote – “acceptable.” It also calls for comparative effectiveness research, a transparent attempt to ration care and limit access to life-changing and life-saving treatments.
The track record for government-controlled health care is not a good one. We’ve heard the story of a couple in Canada forced to deliver their own child because no one answered their ring at the door of the government-run hospital. We read last week that patients in the U.K. facing blindness are likely to receive treatment for one eye only – apparently keeping one’s sight in both eyes is simply not cost effective.
Here in the United States, the record isn’t much better. We already have iterations of government-run health care: Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ care. And while these programs provide essential services, I don’t think anyone would hold them up as a model for the future.
The Medicare hospital trust fund will be insolvent in 2017, and Medicare’s long-term unfunded obligations total $37.8 trillion – yet this bill does nothing to address Medicare’s long-term solvency. Patients cannot find doctors willing to accept Medicare and Medicaid’s paltry reimbursement rates, and veterans wait for care because treatment quotas have been exceeded. I fail to see why anyone would want to extend these problems to the rest of our health care system.
So what have the Democrats proposed? Unfortunately, they’re calling for more of the same – and worse. Rather than fix existing programs, they expand Medicaid and create a new entitlement program that will add trillions in new federal spending. Under the new program, every health care plan in the country will be subject to requirements defined by federal bureaucrats. Employers who cannot provide the prescribed benefits will be forced to pay a new tax on payroll – a cost that is sure to limit job creation and, worse, destroy existing jobs in a struggling economy.
We’re told a new government-run plan will “compete” with the private sector. But instead of competing based on market rates, it will use Medicare payment rates. That’s not fair competition. In reality, the government will make the rules, play in the game, and act as referee. A level playing field? I think not. This so-called public option is nothing more than a Trojan horse intended to slip quietly into the system it will eventually destroy.
Mr. Chairman, I had hoped to work with you to develop bipartisan reforms to make health care more affordable and accessible. I’m disappointed that I was denied that chance, but I can promise this: Republicans aren’t giving up on our health care system. We’re going to do everything we can to protect the American people – that means offering better solutions and standing up against the policies that we believe will drive up costs, kill jobs, and limit access to quality care.
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