I applaud President Barack Obama for bringing national attention to two things I’m passionate about: health care reform and Wisconsin. I am eager to work with the president and Democrats toward a bipartisan solution to health care.
However, the majority has chosen to exclude such collaboration. After reviewing the president’s remarks in Green Bay, I have one basic observation to make: the difference between the president’s rhetoric and the substance of his plans is nothing short of astounding.
In fact, non-partisan experts continue to claim that the president’s "public plan option" will cause as much as 120 million of Americans to lose the health insurance they already have and like. This makes it difficult to keep the insurance they like, underscoring the growing divide between the president’s promises and his policies.
The president reiterated a false choice that is damaging the open, honest health care debate that we deserve. The president frames the debate as: The government must take over the management of health care OR continue with the failed status-quo of today. He continues to challenge his critics by asking, "What is the alternative?"
He knows that there are alternatives - better alternatives where the patient, not the government, is at the center of health care in America. He knows that we have introduced the Patients’ Choice Act of 2009. He knows this and is simply hoping that the American people don’t know it. It should be noted that Democrats haven’t yet introduced a bill - we have.
The Patients’ Choice Act is a real proposal with actual legislative text, demonstrating that we can have universal health insurance in this country without the government taking it over.
Another favorite refrain of the president is that entitlement reform is health care reform. With health security threatened by the unsustainable growth of Medicare and Medicaid, serious reform of these programs is no longer an option. Last year, I introduced comprehensive reforms of both programs, and yet again - nothing but rhetoric from Washington.
What’s worse, the administration’s current strategy to fixing our entitlement crisis is to add yet another entitlement program to an already unsustainable fiscal future. You can't create new government entitlements, impose trillions of dollars of new taxes, and call this cost containment. We already spend over two-and-a-half times any other country on health care. The problem is not that we don't spend enough money, but that we don't spend it efficiently or effectively.
The president highlighted innovative reforms in Wisconsin by providers and patients alike, and used these market-driven reforms to argue that the federal government should take it from there. It takes an uncomfortable faith in Washington to believe that bureaucratic waste will be replaced by innovation and efficiency if only we gave government more control. Again, there is a better path forward on health care reform, and pretending there are not alternatives is a weak argument against our proposals.
What is at stake in this health care debate is nothing short of our definition of America. The outcome of this debate will reshape, in deep and enduring ways, our nation's historic sensibilities. Will we reaffirm our first principles where the government is purposefully limited and the individual is purposefully empowered, or will we sacrifice liberty with a sense of passive security and dependence? Do we want to follow the stagnant European welfare state model, or do believe that there is something unique about our founding, something unique about America that still endures today?
President Obama made the case in Green Bay for a government-centric approach to reforming an issue of tremendous economic and personal importance for all Americans. We will continue to make the case for an approach where patients and doctors are the nucleus of health care in America. We will continue to make the case for health care reform rooted in faith in the individual. We stand ready to engage in a serious health care debate, and are hopeful President Obama and Congressional leaders in Washington are willing to give the American people a health care debate they deserve.