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Ventura County Star Op-Ed: Only Fix What's Broken

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Ventura County Star Op-Ed: Only Fix What's Broken

By Elton Gallegly

Everyone agrees America's healthcare system needs reform.

But some in Congress are trying to fix what isn't broken. I believe that's counterproductive. The current direction by Congress' majority party will lead to long lines of rationed care for all and bring healthcare for all down to the lowest common denominator.

I don't believe that's what Americans want.

Let's keep in mind that, for 80 percent of Americans, the healthcare system meets or exceeds their needs. Also, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people with health insurance actually increased between 2006 and 2007.

So who are the uninsured?

Some are uninsured by choice. We do not know how many, but we do know the highest percentage of the uninsured are those between 18 and 34 years old—29.3 percent for those 18 to 24 and 26.9 percent for those 25 to 34.

We also know that a large percentage of those Americans have access to healthcare but choose to forgo it so they can have some extra cash, particularly in these tough economic times.

I may disagree with their choice to forgo health insurance, but Americans have the right to take risks. Still, if they take the risk, they also have to be willing to accept the financial consequences of their decisions.

Another large percentage of the uninsured is illegal immigrants who drive up healthcare costs by using emergency rooms for primary care.

If we take those out of the equation, we are left with the very poor and, in some cases, the working poor, who need help to gain access to affordable health insurance, and those with pre-existing conditions.

A government-run option, as proposed in the majority party's healthcare bill, is not the answer because, according to nonpartisan actuaries at the Lewin Group, 114 million Americans could lose their current coverage. Add to that the 4.7 million jobs that could be lost as a result of taxes on businesses that cannot afford to provide health-insurance coverage—according to a model developed by the chairwoman of President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romer.

The cost of depriving Americans of coverage they are satisfied with is $1.28 trillion in new federal spending over the next 10 years, according the Congressional Budget Office. To help pay for that, the majority party will have to impose $818 billion in new taxes on individuals who cannot afford health coverage and employers who cannot afford to provide coverage that meets federal bureaucrats' standards.

Another major concern about the majority's bill is its impact on seniors. The bill would cut nearly $500 billion in Medicare spending, including 24,286 24th District seniors who would lose their Medicare Advantage plans, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

I believe a better-functioning, more-competitive and transparent marketplace would cover more people and deliver the higher-value care we seek. Among the healthcare reforms I support are:

Allowing small businesses to join together to purchase group health insurance for their employees. This is probably the most important option because it would give small businesses the ability to negotiate health-insurance costs on par with large businesses. Small businesses employ more than half of American workers. I am a cosponsor of a bill that would create a health-insurance pool for small businesses and the self-employed.

Reforming the medical malpractice system, which is something I have supported throughout my time in Congress. This is equally important because it will reduce wasteful health spending. Too many doctors today order unnecessary tests because they are afraid they will be sued if they don't.

Giving grants to states to create high-risk pools to provide affordable health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions.

Tax credits that will help low-income people purchase health insurance that fits their needs.

Providing Medicare and Medicaid with additional authority and resources to stop waste, fraud and abuse that cost taxpayers billions of dollars every year.

To that end, I cosponsored the Empowering Patients First Act, which encompasses many of the principles I believe are important to effective healthcare reform.

Healthcare is too important to rush a 1,018-page partisan bill though Congress that was written by a handful of people in a back room. If we rush healthcare, in a few months, we will find, like the economic programs, that it has done more harm than good.

—Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, represents the 24th Congressional District, which encompasses most of Ventura County and inland Santa Barbara County.


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