Health care bill’s passage will cost us all

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I want to begin by thanking everyone from the 5th District, as well as the rest of the state of Louisiana, for taking the time to contact our office to discuss their thoughts on the recent health reform issue. We received an overwhelming amount of phone calls, faxes, e-mails, and hard mail that clearly stated you were not in support of this overhaul of the health care system.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, we have seen multiple versions of health care legislation, including the most recent package which was voted on and passed on Sunday, March 21. The disastrous health care package consisted of two bills: the Senate-passed H.R. 3590, The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, which passed by a vote of 219-212, and was signed into law on March 23, and the reconciliation package H.R. 4872, The Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, which passed by a vote of 220-211, and is currently being debated in the Senate.

Faced with some objections within their own ranks and frustration from the American public, House Democrats dropped original plans to use a self-executing rule to deem the Senate-passed health care bill H.R. 3590 cleared for President Obama when a companion reconciliation bill H.R. 4872 is passed. Dropping the procedure known as “deem and pass” allowed for an up or down vote on both bills.

I did not support this package for many reasons; one being that the legislation undermines the patient-physician relationship. Instead, it empowers the federal government with even greater authority through new physician, employer and benefit mandates.

Also, supporters of this health reform package misled the American public into believing that you can raise baselines and reduce spending at the same time. The unsustainable nature of the bill from a financial standpoint was another reason I refused to vote for it. You cannot expand coverage to millions of individuals and expect to curb costs.

So, how does the government expect to pay for this? This legislation includes an increase of $569.2 billion in new taxes over 10 years. In the midst of 9.7 percent unemployment in this country and 8.2 percent in Louisiana, forcing job-killing taxes at a time when we can least afford it will devastate small businesses, job creators, investors and middle class families.

In addition, this bill ultimately expands an already broken and unsustainable Medicaid program. The Medicaid program currently pays doctors and hospitals at levels well below those of Medicare and private insurance — and most of the time below actual costs. This legislation will devastate our thinly stretched state budgets with a $20 billion unfunded mandate to expand the Medicaid population and cut federal Disproportionate Share dollars, which the state of Louisiana heavily relies on to cover the indigent population.

Moreover, the bill includes $523.5 billion in cuts to Medicare, slashing benefits and raising premiums on seniors. These cuts are not used to reduce the deficit, but instead to create new entitlement programs. Specifically, these cuts include $202.3 billion in cuts to seniors’ Medicare Advantage plans. We have 600,000 seniors enrolled as Medicare beneficiaries in Louisiana, and the administration continues to misinform them that they will not have services or benefits cut.

I opposed this massive expansion of the government’s role in our private health care system and education system. The concerns regarding the overall distrust of the federal government have been solidified through passage of H.R. 3590 and H.R. 4872. The majority of this country will now rely on the federal government for everything from mortgages, student loans, health care and retirement benefits.

The outpouring of opposition from the American public apparently did not resonate with the congressional majority. Their decision to vote and pass this massive overhaul of our health care system was rammed down our country’s throat in order to get it quickly across the finish line.

Unfortunately, this is no longer about seeing positive changes to our health care system, but just a political agenda to get something passed — no matter what the cost.

Rep. Rodney Alexander represents the 5th District of Louisiana in the U.S. House of Representatives.