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Kline Statement: Hearing on “Examining the Single Payer Health Care Option”

We’re here today, as the hearing title suggests, to examine single payer health care.

Single payer is certainly among the most controversial approaches to health care reform, and frankly, I’m a little surprised to see it on this subcommittee’s agenda. President Obama and Democratic leaders have publicly rejected the notion of single payer. And I’m glad they have.

Creating a new, one-size-fits-all health care system modeled on Medicare is a recipe for disaster. It would balloon the deficit and add to our mounting debt. It would drive up taxes while driving down medical innovation. It would ration care while empowering bureaucrats.

Although my friends on the other side of the aisle have not included Republicans in their deliberations, I’ve been following their progress closely on the pages of the newspaper. The latest reports indicate that they could formally unveil their legislation as early as next week.

While their proposal reportedly does not include a single payer scheme, it seems highly likely that we’ll see a government-run option. And I use that word “option” with some trepidation, because it seems clear to me that any government-run option is designed to undercut the private sector and eventually drive private participants out of the market.

So perhaps today’s hearing is appropriate after all. If Democrats are serious about including a so-called government-run “option” in their plan – and if a government-run “option” is designed to crowd out the private sector – then the reality is that we are only a few steps away from a single payer system.

How else can we explain the urgency with which this hearing was scheduled?

Committee rules require that Members be provided at least seven days notice before any hearing. Often, we receive even more notice than that.

In contrast, today’s hearing was announced last Thursday – just a day less than the customary seven days, but it required the schedule to be reissued nonetheless. And it requires this subcommittee to waive our longstanding rules to proceed.

Mr. Chairman, this hastily convened hearing epitomizes everything that is wrong with the majority’s health care reform process.

Our health care system is in serious need of reform. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the shortcomings of the current system and the need for meaningful change. There is a bipartisan commitment to change, and that’s why we should have a bipartisan reform process.

Health care reform is far too important to get wrong. It’s more important that we do it right than simply do it fast.

Unfortunately, the majority seems to have chosen a different path. The Speaker, after a partisan strategy session at the White House last month, announced an arbitrary deadline that calls for House passage of a comprehensive health care overhaul before the August work period.

It’s like déjà vu all over again. Just like the so-called economic stimulus package earlier this year, we face the prospect of complex and costly legislation that is crafted behind closed doors. Members of Congress did not even have the opportunity to fully review the stimulus before it was brought to a vote. And judging by the announcement made at the White House this week – essentially, an acknowledgement that the stimulus isn’t delivering the jobs that were promised – a partisan package that doesn’t receive a thorough review and vetting simply won’t work.

Mr. Chairman, I will say it again: 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.

This hearing is the wrong issue at the wrong time, but it’s not too late. I hope we give health care reform the serious, bipartisan consideration it deserves before we go down a path from which we cannot return.     


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