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Petri Statement: Markup of H.R. 3200, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act

Today, this Committee will begin consideration of legislation that would completely overhaul the current health care system in this country. I know that many of my constituents are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of their health care premiums, while others are simply unable to afford health care coverage. Many people in my state have lost their jobs and fear that they won't be able to afford their children's medication or that an unforeseen illness will bankrupt them. Some individuals who have insurance are simply staying in a job they don't like because their next job may not offer health care insurance. Others who are happy with their insurance worry that any drastic reform will force them into a system that will limit their choice of doctor or access to medical treatment.

I certainly agree that it is time to fix the health care system in the United States so that all Americans, all my constituents, have access to quality affordable health care coverage. However, I strongly believe that any reform must be based on a few important principles.

First, it must give everyone access to quality and affordable health care. All Americans should have equal opportunity to access medical care. For far too long individuals such as those with pre-existing conditions or small business owners have been priced out of the current system.

Second, any reform should ensure a patient centered system. Patients in consultation with their doctors should be in control of their health care decisions and not government bureaucrats or insurance agents. If your child or parent is sick, they should have access to timely tests and treatments and not subject to waiting lists or treatment decisions dependent on anyone other than their doctor.

Third, and importantly, any reform should aim to reduce the cost of health care. The majority of Americans have some kind of health insurance that they are generally satisfied with, but what they really worry about is rising costs. Spending on health care services already accounts for about 17 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)—an expected total of about $2.6 trillion in 2009. Health care inflation has outpaced general inflation by approximately 2.5 percent a year.

This bill does little to reduce overall health care spending. Reforms that bring consumers more information and control over the cost and quality of health care would facilitate a more efficient delivery system. We should be encouraging and not eliminating consumer driven health care delivery systems which give the benefit of cost savings to consumers by incentivizing responsibility over one's own health care. Third-party payer systems do not this and fail to offer an effective means of cost control consistent with quality health care and patient control. Furthermore, changes to the health care payment system and medical liability structure in the United States that seek to reward high quality care and discourage health providers from ordering more and unnecessary services also would lead to health care savings.

Our health care system must do a better job of emphasizing prevention and wellness. Chronic diseases account for 75 percent of our nation's medical costs. By implementing wellness programs to encourage healthy living, we will not only save lives, but reduce health care costs. Any reform needs to also focus on getting rid of the waste, fraud and abuse that plagues our current system. Over $10 billion is lost each year due to fraud in the Medicare program alone. We can't afford to multiply that number through a government takeover of our entire health care system. We need to prioritize efficiency, transparency, and results.

The United States leads the world in medical innovation, accounting for five out six important medical innovations over the past 25 years. These life-saving treatments and cures are priceless for the millions of Americans who benefit, but also bring great monetary improvements to the entire health care system. We must make sure this culture of medical innovation is preserved.

I am very concerned that the bill before us today does little to achieve any of the above principles and instead will put health decisions in the hands of government bureaucrats, impose costly new taxes on business and individuals, and do little to reform the fundamental problems in the system that drive health care costs. 

H.R.3200 will force individuals to participate either in a public health care plan or else in a private plan which has been approved by a new Health Choices Administration.  The HCA would establish extensive requirements, mandates and limitations for health care plans for the individuals who use them until those covered qualify for Medicare. Businesses which choose not to offer HCA-approved insurance for their employees, and individuals who choose not to participate, would be taxed.  Individuals who do participate could qualify for subsidies. The extensive government regulations on private and employer based insurance seem to pave the way for a single-payer approach.

The President has repeatedly said that if you like your current health insurance, you won't have to change it.  The actual situation appears to be more complicated, however, given the incentives and penalties being considered.

Government-mandated changes in health care will have enormous consequences for our economy and the way Americans live. Any comprehensive reform should be crafted in a bipartisan, thoughtful manner. We are taking a big risk if we rush through this legislation.


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