First, Do No Harm
H.R. 3962 Is the Wrong Bill for American Health Care Reform
Let me be absolutely clear about our current health care debate: We need a system of health care that provides affordable access to quality care for San Diegans and all Americans.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress agree that our system needs reform. A bi-partisan bill where everyone has input, costs are controlled and taxpayer dollars aren’t abused must be developed. Unfortunately, the 1,990-page H.R. 3962, the so-called Affordable Health Care for Americans Act of 2009, isn’t bi-partisan, makes health care more expensive and gives no guarantee that America’s money will not be wasted.
The bill, written in backrooms and closed-door meetings that shut out the American public, carries a heavy price tag. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the non-partisan congressional agency that provides economic analysis, projects the true cost of the bill to the American taxpayer as more than $1 trillion. Since that projection, H.R. 3962 supporters have added more programs, and the bill has bloated to $1.2 trillion… $300 billion more than President Obama’s $900 billion goal. The CBO has also said that H.R. 3962 will cost America more in the long run than if we kept the current broken system in place. Recently, the CBO estimated our 2009 federal budget deficit at $1.6 trillion (or 11.2 percent of our Gross Domestic Product—the highest since WWII) and a ten-year projected budget deficit of $9 trillion. That begs the question: How will America pay for the Affordable Health Care for Americans Act?
The funding mechanism for H.R. 3962 is made up of three parts: higher taxes (such as the income tax surcharge in Section 551, the small businesses tax increase in Section 413 and a tax increase on the makers of medical devices in Section 339), new penalties (such as the penalty to individuals who do not comply with forced coverage in Section 501 or the business penalty in Section 512) and billions in cuts to Medicare Advantage (noted in Section 1161).
Cutting health care services to our nation’s seniors just as Baby Boomers are beginning to retire is irresponsible. Also irresponsible is raising taxes on our small businesses in this economy and while San Diego experiences10.2 percent unemployment. Small businesses are the engine of our economy and, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, employ more than 50 percent of all Americans. They need all the help they can get.
In addition to failing to stem the issue of illegal immigrants taking advantage of the system, H.R. 3962 falls flat on immediate efforts to control costs. One solution would be to enact medical tort reform to limit attorney’s fees and bring reason to courtroom malpractice awards. H.R. 3962, in Section 2531, specifically bans reducing attorney’s fees and does nothing to control outrageous litigation rewards, and in addition punishes states like California that have already enacted their own versions of tort reform. Private insurance regulations must be reformed so individuals with pre-existing conditions are not denied coverage, and so insurance seekers can cross state lines to find better and more competitive health insurance. Further, small businesses should be free to band together as a group in order to purchase insurance at the same rates given to large corporations. If we correct the restrictions and decrease the cost along with the waste, fraud and abuse currently in the system we can move down the path of responsible health care reform, together, as one nation.
H.R. 3962 is simply another example of government being quick to make promises, spend money and create mandates while never getting around to true reform.
Congressman Bilbray represents California’s 50th Congressional District, is the Co-Chair of the Biomedical Research Caucus and is a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.