Wicker Outlines Principles For Successful Health Care Reform

Government Takeover Must Be Avoided

June 1, 2009

For years, the rising cost of health care has placed an increasing burden on families and small businesses across our country.  Since 2000, health insurance premiums have nearly doubled.  Nationwide, the costs associated with paying for health care have continued consuming a larger portion of our economy.  We now spend twice as much on health care as many other developed countries.   

The significant increase in the cost of health care has led to an alarming number of uninsured Americans.  Some estimates are that as many as 47 million people are without health insurance in our country, with millions more increasingly worried about how they will afford to keep the insurance they have.  In Mississippi, there are over 500,000 uninsured adults, which equates to 18 percent of our state’s population. 

These figures paint a startling picture.  America’s health care system is in profound need of reform.  As we work to get our economy back on track, Congress has a unique opportunity to lower costs and strengthen the quality of our health care system for every American.

                                BIPARTISAN COMMITMENT
There has been growing recognition of our nation’s health care dilemma and the need for reform.  Many members of Congress and the administration have called for swift action to address these problems.  I welcome this readiness for action and stand ready to work across the aisle to find common ground. 

This process must be bipartisan in order to work.  Health care reform is too important to be made partisan or political.  Any reform legislation that is approved by Congress deserves broad, bipartisan support. As with every major legislative effort, however, the devil will be in the details.  As we consider ways to find a solution, it is my hope that all members of Congress and President Obama can agree on a number of principles that are important to making health care reform a success for every American.

                                 PRINCIPLES FOR REFORM
First, we must focus on prevention, wellness, and early detection.  Chronic diseases account for seventy-five percent of all health care dollars spent in this country.  Prevention is the key to building a system that will save countless lives and billions of dollars each year.  Health care providers should be incentivized to give the best care possible and reimbursed based on the quality of care delivered, not the number of patient visits.

Second, there must be agreement on the simple principle that those who are happy with their current health care coverage can keep it.  I have serious concerns that some may use health care reform legislation as an opportunity to engineer a Washington takeover of health care.  The creation of a politician-controlled “public plan” would result in millions of Americans eventually losing their coverage.  We must guarantee that Americans are not pushed into a government-centered system. 

Third, we must ensure that whatever reforms are implemented, the doctor-patient relationship is protected.  A Washington takeover of our health care system would significantly lower the standard of care in our country.  For reform to be successful, doctors and patients need to continue making health care decisions, not a group of Washington bureaucrats.   

Finally, whatever legislative action is taken, it is imperative we act in a fiscally responsible way.  We simply cannot use the need for health care reform as an excuse to expand the practice of borrowing and spending.

                                PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST
We need to be careful about how we address our nation’s health care challenges.  If we can work together to find agreement on these principles, we will be much more likely to find bipartisan agreement on the fine details.

Above all, we must remember that health care in America is not just an economic issue.  It is a personal issue.  Working together, we can fix our broken health care system by making it more accessible and affordable for every person in our country without jeopardizing quality, individual choice, or personalized care.