For the past several months, debate over health care reform has unfortunately been relegated to partisan rhetoric and hypothetical proposals. The public was recently treated to its first glimpse of the House Majority’s intentions when a “tri-committee” discussion draft was released last week. As expected, their plan centers around a “public plan” option coupled with heavy insurance mandates and extensive government regulation. Notably absent from the draft were specifics on how this reform will be financed. As various Senate proposals have been reported to cost over a trillion dollars, this omission is striking to say the least.
The incomplete reform plan continues the alarming trend by both the Administration and the Democratic Majority to rush a government-run health care measure through Congress without the robust public scrutiny and debate it deserves. The Majority’s proposal for a “public option” in health insurance is a back-door plan to replace health care based on patient choice and market competition with bureaucratized medicine—not all at once but step by step.
Here is how it works: the federal government “option” would pay doctors and hospitals at below market prices
in order to “control costs.” When the government short-changes doctors, the rest of us will be forced to make up the difference: those not on the government plan will have to pay more for the same care. If the government plan will only pay $60 to your doctor for a procedure that costs $100, then your doctor will be forced to charge you $140 for the same procedure to make up the difference. With costs continuing to mount
, employers will increasingly find it more cost-effective to drop private coverage altogether and dump their employees into the government plan. In fact, one nonpartisan study by the Lewin Group has estimated that nearly 120 million Americans would lose their private health insurance under a public-plan-type scenario. This makes it difficult for people to keep the insurance they like, underscoring the growing divide between the President’s promises and his policies.
Even with these government controls, trillions of taxpayer dollars will be needed to finances this type of health care reform. In fact, the House Majority’s health care bill requires that businesses pay a new 8% “pay-or-play” tax, effectively pushing America’s payroll tax up to 23%. For those who chose not to buy health insurance, they will be hit with an across the board 2% tax on Adjusted Gross Income. The Majority argues—following these figures—that they “offset” the trillion-plus dollar cost of universal health care with a combination of tax increases and coverage cuts in other health care areas. Robbing Peter to pay Paul while taxing them both is not what America needs for better health care delivery.
Instead of debating alternative ways to reform our health care system
, the American public continues to be presented with a false choice between accepting a government takeover of health care or doing nothing. This ignores the thoughtful proposals that have been put forward
by members of Congress, on both sides of the isle, and trivializes the significance of this issue. As important as the debate over the future of health care is, the ramifications go beyond simply health care. This debate may well prove to be a surrogate for the defining issue of our generation: The nature of democratic self-government and whether this great American experiment in individual freedom will be cast aside as inadequate to today’s concerns.
Today, America’s private and public sector spend about $2.5 trillion a year on health care, more than twice what any other country spends per person, amounting to some 17 percent of our nation’s GDP. If government is now to take over the whole cost burden as another entitlement, the transformation of our society into a European-style social welfare state will be unstoppable. This democratic system under which each citizen takes active responsibility for working to fulfill his or her potential, maturely judging risks and rewards, will be replaced by a nation of passive subjects grateful to government leaders for anything they receive to satisfy their needs, desires, and dreams.
This is not inevitable. There is a better way forward. I have introduced legislation with Congressman Devin Nunes
and Senators Tom Coburn and Richard Burr, called the Patients’ Choice Act, that demonstrates we can have universal health insurance in this country without the government taking it over. By bringing patient choice and encouraging market-based competition for health services, we can bring down health costs, and increase the supply of health insurance. This is the way to keep America on the path of free markets, which has served us so well in the past, which has lifted countless people out of poverty, and which can lead Americans to a healthier and more prosperous future. I believe that given the choice between a health care system designed, managed, and run by bureaucrats and one that is driven be the needs of patients and doctors, Americans will overwhelming choose that latter. But American public must be given the chance to have this debate.
The current system is broken and the status quo cannot remain. I applaud President Obama in his commitment to bringing about reform. But this one-sided debate does a disservice to the American public and denies them a choice they deserve. I will continue to make the case for health care reform
rooted in faith in the individual and stand ready to engage in a serious debate when President Obama and Congressional leaders in Washington are willing to give the American people a health care debate they deserve.
Congressman Paul Ryan serves Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. To contact him by phone in Washington, D.C., call (202) 225-3031. Or visit Paul Ryan at www.house.gov/ryan