THE HILL: Republicans Offer a Prescription for a Healthier America
Dec 1, 2010 -
By Rep. Fred Upton (MI) and Rep. Joe Pitts (PA) -
As House Republicans prepare to assume the majority, we must also prepare to promote a strong agenda that encourages job growth and shrinks government. We can think of no better way to begin than by immediately repealing and replacing the Democrats’ massive job-killing healthcare takeover. As part of this process, the Energy and Commerce Committee will embark on a comprehensive oversight and legislative strategy to uncover the many problems of the law and foster a new approach that will reduce healthcare costs; lower government spending on healthcare; reduce the role of government in the healthcare delivery process; and protect the sanctity of life.
The so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has been widely criticized by the American public, and for good reason. The law does nothing to address rising healthcare costs, diverts monies from other programs to fund an expensive new entitlement we cannot afford, dramatically expands government’s control over consumers’ healthcare choices, penalizes businesses, and unconstitutionally forces American citizens to purchase a private product. The Democrats have been derelict in their constitutional duty to oversee the implementation of this law and expose its problems; expect all of that to change in January. Real oversight is needed, and the Energy and Commerce Committee will work closely with other committees of jurisdiction to reveal, repeal and replace this law.
For example, the law provides sweeping new authority to the federal government and unaccountable agencies to ration care, engage in price setting of items and services, and interfere with Medicare Part D. It establishes unelected, unaccountable entities to set price controls and make sweeping changes to the way care is provided, including the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMI). These boards can take action without having to issue rules, provide for any beneficiary appeals, or permit a beneficiary to challenge the government’s decision in court, dramatically weakening protections for Medicare beneficiaries. CMI astoundingly allows the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to waive any fraud and abuse law. Republicans will hold the administration’s feet to the fire and work to uncover the massive overreach sure to result from the implementation of these boards.
The bill also adds to the cost of care. A wide array of regulatory provisions, in addition to numerous taxes, will make providing and purchasing care more expensive – something not fully taken to account by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as they raced to score the bill. A recent inquiry to CBO from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) confirmed that the pharmaceutical tax in the bill will raise drug prices. During the next Congress, we will follow Rep. Ryan’s lead by peppering CBO and the administration on the myriad of taxes and mandates in PPACA and their effect on the cost of care. The legislation’s mandate that states automatically enroll individuals with incomes of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level into Medicaid will compound the challenges to states who are already barely keeping their fiscal heads above water. We will work with our governors to expose and address this problem.
One of the most blatant ways the health overhaul skirts the will of the American public is its allowance of federal funds for abortion coverage. The new law is riddled with loopholes that allow federal subsidies to be used to purchase plans that provide abortions, and now the administration is considering mandating the inclusion of abortion-inducing drugs in government-subsidized plans as “preventative women’s health.” The Protect Life Act (H.R. 5011) would address these loopholes by amending the law to explicitly prevent federal funding for abortion or abortion coverage through any program funded or created by the new law. We must not simply stop at addressing the abortion funding loopholes created by the health overhaul. Congress must act quickly to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 5939), introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). This comprehensive legislation would permanently codify the various appropriations provisions prohibiting public funding for elective abortions in all federal programs.
Our investigations will demonstrate the need to repeal this law and replace it with common sense reforms that lower costs and increase accessibility to healthcare without increasing government. These common sense changes must include employer incentives that would allow companies to afford to provide health insurance for their employees. Tort reform would reduce unnecessary lawsuits, help reduce the crippling cost of malpractice insurance paid by our doctors and eliminate the need for unnecessary, defensive tests and procedures. Insurance portability would give workers the option to “carry” their insurance from employer to employer if they change jobs. If an individual does not have access to employer-provided healthcare coverage, they should be eligible for a tax credit that could be used to buy coverage. Pooling would allow for groups like small businesses, labor, and other professionals to “pool” together to share risks and gain access to affordable coverage. Consumers should also be permitted to purchase insurance across state lines, allowing plans to compete nationally and leveling the playing field for everyone.
The American people have spoken. They want a Congress that will be careful stewards of their tax dollars and pass reasonable legislation that fixes our healthcare system without infringing on individual liberties. In the 112th Congress, Republicans will fulfill that obligation.