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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, America is at a crossroads and we, as Members of Congress have the duty and responsibility to ensure our great country remains vibrant and competitive in the 21st Century. For that reason, I cannot figure out why the Democratic leadership and the administration want to rush to pass this monstrosity of a bill, with its $1 trillion price tag and $730 billion in taxes. I can confidently say that passing this health care reform bill will unwind private health care in America and at the same time do very little to bring down its cost.
I rise today to speak in strong opposition to the legislation before us, H.R. 3962. This measure is indeed historic--an historic expansion of the role of government in the lives of every American. Your choice of physician ..... your choice of medical facility ..... your choice of the kind of care and treatment you receive ..... these are some of the most personal decisions you can ever make. The prospect of placing those decisions into the hands of a new federal bureaucracy that would combine the efficiencies of FEMA with the compassion of the Department of Motor Vehicles ought to alarm every American.
So we are gathered here, to vote on legislation that is nearly twice the length of the original bill, H.R. 3200, that was introduced this summer. Mr. Speaker, I doubt that there are many people in this great hall who can honestly tell you they are fully conversant with every provision in this bill. But after doing our best to read, study and understand the nearly two-thousand pages of H.R. 3962 we know certain things this bill will do. For example, we know it will cost taxpayers more than a trillion dollars. We know it will impose $730 billion in new taxes on small businesses and individuals. We know it will cost five-and-a-half million Americans their jobs. We know it will create over 100 new bureaus, commissions, and programs. And we know it will burden our states with tens of billions of dollars in new unfunded federal mandates. In Florida alone, the additional costs associated with the Medicaid mandates will be in the billions of dollars.
Mr. Speaker, we are told by the President and by the majority party in Congress that we need all this in order to make health care more affordable for the American people. How are we making health care more affordable if we are driving the American people into bankruptcy by taking historic steps toward a federal takeover of the entire health care system?
The Democrat Majority seeks to pay for their health care reform bill in part through 8 percent payroll penalty taxes on employers who cannot afford to provide insurance coverage, and through a 5.4 percent surtax on individuals making $500,000 a year or more. These provisions are estimated to bring in more than $595 billion.
You don't have to be an economist to know that these new taxes will have a direct and adverse affect on small businesses across America. An overwhelming majority of small businesses--approximately 75 percent of them--pay their business taxes through the owner at the individual level. Essentially, one in every three small businesses would be subject to the new surtax and just in the State of Florida as many as 57,000 small businesses would be affected. These provisions are effectively a tax on jobs that will stifle job creation and depress wages. In light of the latest unemployment numbers of 10.2 percent for the U.S. and 11 percent for Florida, this is hardly the time to raise costs on small businesses and employers.
If the taxes on America's small businesses were not enough, this bill also imposes a 2.5 percent tax on medical devices. At a time when our country spends about 17 percent of its GDP on health care, and we are tasked with developing policies to bring down the overall cost of care, it is irrational that we should tax an industry that is such an integral part of health care. This tax, on everything from syringes to artificial hips, will undoubtedly be passed along to the consumer.
Mr. Speaker, America has the best health care system in the world. Why should we destroy the economic backbone of America to create a government-run health care plan that the majority of Americans oppose? It does not have to be this way.
We can take significant steps to address health care--steps guided by principles based on the freedom of choice, transparency and openness, and a competitive free market.
We can lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing Americans' number-one priority for health care reform.
We can establish a universal access program to guarantee access to affordable health care for people with pre-existing conditions. The Republican alternative plan creates Universal Access Programs that expand and reform high-risk pools and reinsurance programs to guarantee that all Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses, have access to affordable care.
We can curb the cost of defensive medicine in this country by putting an end to ``junk lawsuits.'' The fear of lawsuits drives doctors to order expensive tests and procedures for patients, and not necessarily because they think they are in the best interest of the patients. Some doctors have even had to close their doors because they cannot afford the malpractice insurance premiums. It is evident that meaningful medical malpractice reform should be a component of any health care reform proposal. The Republican plan would help save $54 billion in the health care sector by including measures that have been successfully demonstrated in California and Texas.
Just as we all want to reduce the cost of care, we should seek innovative ways to provide coverage without breaking the bank. We can do this by empowering small businesses with the opportunity to pool together and negotiate lower health care premiums--just as corporations and labor unions do--through association health plans. Another common sense reform would allow Americans to shop for coverage from coast to coast across state lines.
We can promote prevention and wellness by giving employers greater flexibility to financially reward employees who adopt healthier lifestyles. Incidentally, about 75 percent of medical spending goes toward the treatment of chronic diseases. Research shows that the number of individuals suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease could be reduced through proper wellness, prevention, and disease management programs. The Republican alternative would allow for employers to offer flexible coverage options to reward and encourage healthy behaviors in an effort to reduce overall spending on costly chronic diseases.
We can do all of these things and more, Mr. Speaker. And we can do these things with legislation that the Congressional Budget Office says will lower premiums by up to 10 percent and reduce the deficit by $68 billion over the next ten years, without imposing tax increases on families and small businesses.
This alternative will give Americans access to health care, it will free up our medical system to become more innovative and efficient, and it is what Americans expect from their country.
Mr. Speaker, this alternative is what this Congress should be sending to the President's desk--not the mammoth, unwise, and extraordinary expansion of government embodied in H.R. 3962.
I urge my colleagues to vote "no'' on this bill.
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