Congress is in the midst of a vigorous health care discussion covering a wide range of ideas. Our country needs health care reform, but it is important that any legislation approved have broad bipartisan support.
Congress must decide between two approaches – one that would reform our health care system by cutting costs, expanding coverage, and allowing patients to keep their current doctors, and a different concept involving a costly government takeover of health care and severely diminished quality of care. This is a pivotal debate that affects every American, and our decisions will have long-lasting consequences.
KEEP THE GOOD
Americans have always had a unique relationship with their physicians. In Mississippi, our doctors are also our neighbors, fellow church members, trusted friends, and family members. We call on them all hours of the day and night, and many generations of our families visit the same trusted source for medical advice.
President Obama recently acknowledged the importance of this relationship when he said, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period.”
The President appeared to be advocating reform that would preserve choice and the doctor-patient relationship. However, the proposals he is supporting on Capitol Hill do just the opposite. The plans advocated by the President and Congressional Democrats would transform our health care system into a European style government-run program. Americans do not need Washington deciding who their doctor is and what treatment they will receive. Any health reform must preserve existing doctor-patient relationships.
While estimates vary, there could be as many as 47 million uninsured people in America and well over 200 million who already have health insurance coverage. Rising costs threaten to push more people onto the rolls of the uninsured, and there are other threats that we must be careful to avoid as well. A government-run plan would undermine our current system by using tax revenues to distort the true cost of care.
I am gravely concerned that Americans will be pushed into this government plan, which appears cheaper, but would actually cost taxpayers more and erode quality. The latest report indicates the cost for a government run program would be $3.5 trillion, the equivalent of the entire annual budget of the United States.
Despite numerous town hall meetings and press conferences, the administration has not offered any concrete proposals on how they intend to pay for their expensive takeover of our health care system. With a price tag into the trillions the only plausible answer is to raise taxes.
FIX THE BAD
The good news is that it is possible to fix our health care without risking harm to the parts of our system that are working. We must provide coverage for all Americans. Workers should not be trapped in a job they do not like because they are afraid of losing their health care. People who are laid-off do not need the added stress of losing their health benefits. We must create a system that offers affordable coverage to everyone and helps the poorest Americans get the coverage they need.
Any reform to our system must place a stronger emphasis on prevention, wellness, and early detection. Poor diet and exercise habits have lead to an obesity epidemic in our country and brought unprecedented levels of chronic diseases. A robust system of preventive care is the key to saving countless lives and billions of dollars. I believe any legislation addressing health care reform must include a plan that focuses health care spending on preventive services.
GET IT RIGHT
Americans want our system reformed, but they want it done right. Six in ten individuals are concerned that the administration’s government-run health care proposal would require them to see a Washington-approved doctor. Americans also are concerned about our country’s deficit.
Just this year, the administration has spent over $1 trillion on a stimulus package that has yet to show results. Additionally in the past year, the federal government has purchased banks, an insurance company, and an auto company. All of these efforts were financed through borrowing. A takeover of the health care industry would involve additional deficit spending.
Our country desperately needs health care reform, but we cannot afford to get it wrong. Instead, we must work together to develop a plan that will preserve what works and fix what is broken. Congress has a unique opportunity to strengthen our health care system for every American, and I hope we take advantage of this chance to enact reforms that provide true benefits for every Mississippian.