It makes a lot of sense, actually. Senators can only be responsive to the collective interests of a whole state. The trouble with that is that a whole state of voters with conflicting interests can’t easily hold senators accountable. They can hold their state legislators accountable, though.
Here’s my congressman’s response to the message I’ve already published in a previous post.
As you know, the health care debate in this country is in full swing, and I wanted to give you a quick update regarding where the process stands in Washington, D.C.
In July, five congressional committees began work on similar pieces of legislation that would drastically change health care in this country, putting more responsibility for your care in the hands of the government.
I am a member of one of those committees-the House Energy and Commerce Committee-where a 1,018-page bill was introduced just hours before we began considering amendments to the legislation. Ramming bills through Congress without time to read them has become an all-too-common practice in the nation’s capital. That’s an absurd way to legislate.
I voted against the bill, H.R. 3200, which the Energy and Commerce Committee passed by a narrow 31-28 margin after a rushed and closed process. Five Democrats joined all Republicans in opposition. Hopefully the House leadership will bring some sanity and openness to the process and engage in bipartisan discussion before the bill goes before the full House. I know that’s what Americans expect and deserve from their elected leaders.
Without a doubt, we need to carefully address America’s health care challenges. There are far too many junk lawsuits that drive up the cost for everyone, and billions of dollars could be saved by rooting out the waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. We can create solutions for small businesses to pursue affordable health coverage for their employees, without raising new taxes.
But the current plan in Congress just creates more government and spends $1.2 trillion in taxpayer money to launch a takeover of health care that would mimic the models in Canada and Europe, where government bureaucrats, not doctors, decide when you will receive the treatment you need. Let me be clear: I will not support a health care system that puts anyone between you and your doctor.
If the government takeover becomes law, as many as two out of three Americans will be forced from their current coverage to a government plan, according to an independent study. Up to 114 million Americans could lose their current health coverage. That’s not right. If you like the coverage you have now, you should be able to keep it.
Like I said earlier, reform is necessary, especially with the spiraling cost of coverage that puts health care out of reach for too many. But according to the nonpartisan head of the Congressional Budget Office, this $1.2 trillion bill does not propose the “fundamental changes” needed to rein in health care spending. It doesn’t even fix the problem (17 million Americans would still lack health coverage under this plan), and it adds $239 billion to the national debt. We can get costs under control, but this bill simply doesn’t do it.
Small businesses would fund much of the new government spending through tax hikes. A penalty equal to 8 percent of payroll would be assessed on employers who are unable to provide “acceptable coverage,” a threshold determined by an unelected government panel. Small business owners tell me they cannot afford a punitive tax or the costs of providing coverage to all their employees, and would either have to shut their doors or lay off significant numbers of employees if this new tax is enacted. Having owned and managed a small business in Oregon for more than 21 years, I certainly relate to these concerns.
The plan jeopardizes the care that some 210,000 Oregon seniors rely upon by drastically cutting Medicare Advantage. In total, the bill would cut nearly $500 billion from Medicare, which results in $311 million in payment cuts to hospitals and over $80 million in cuts to nursing homes in Oregon’s Second District. One Oregon hospital administrator told me his facility might have to close under the plan.
And government care isn’t better care. The highly-respected medical journal Lancet reported that American five-year survival rates for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer rank first or second in the world. Survival rates for breast and prostate cancer in the United States are 83.9 percent and 91.9 percent, respectively. Compare that to the rates in the UK: 69.7 percent and 51.1 percent, respectively. We can’t afford that risk.
In the Energy and Commerce Committee, I came ready to work in good faith to make access to health care more affordable and accessible. Many of our suggested improvements to the bill were rejected, including provisions to allow you to keep the coverage you have if you like it; force members of Congress to enroll in the same health coverage they create in the government takeover; and block cuts to care for those seniors who rely on Medicare.
The Republican alternative I support would allow small businesses to join together to purchase high quality care for their employees at a reasonable price, just as unions already do. For workers who do not receive benefits from their employers, our proposal creates easy-to-understand health-plan finders for workers to identify a plan that fits their needs. We would cut down on frivolous lawsuits and root out waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid that cost American taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
I believe Americans sent us to Washington, D.C. to work together to solve the country’s problems. When Congress reconvenes in September, I hope we can do the deliberative and transparent work that can lead to real, productive reform that this country’s health care system needs.
Finally, here’s a link to a recent article http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/08/column-americans-arent-going-to-buy-health-care-spin-mr-president.html written by the House Republican Leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio. His comments are right on target.
It’s an honor to represent you in the U.S. Congress.
GREG WALDEN Member of Congress