Rep. Frank Wolf(R-10th) today released the following statement in response to the passage of the House Democrats health care reform bill, H.R. 3962.
"Health care is a very personal matter and there are very real consequences to how Congress approaches this issue and what the results are. If there were ever an issue that calls for thoughtful, bipartisan cooperation in Congress, it is health care reform. But that's not the path the majority leadership in Congress has chosen. On Saturday, November 7, the House considered a fast-tracked, nearly 2,000-page health reform bill (H.R. 3962) that would drastically change the health insurance system in America. I did not vote for this legislation,
which narrowly passed 220-215.
"The American people want Congress to pass responsible health care reform that lowers costs and offers greater access to affordable health care. They do not want more government spending and a government takeover of health care. But that's where H.R. 3962 is heading. It features a government-run option to compete with private plans and adds dozens of new government mandates at a cost of $1.055 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). It would raise taxes, add to our national debt, and hurt America's seniors, families and small businesses during a time of economic recession and unemployment topping 10.2 percent. Simply stated, it is the wrong plan at the wrong time.
"H.R. 3962 mandates that employers provide health insurance to workers or face penalties of up to 8 percent of their payroll. It also mandates that all individuals obtain health care by 2013 or face penalties. For those with an income below 400 percent of the poverty level subsidies would be offered to help cover insurance cost. The revenue sources identified to pay for this costly new, untested government program include a surcharge on wealthy taxpayers. This new tax would not be indexed for inflation and could mirror the consequences of the alternative minimum tax, which ensnares more and more taxpayers at lower income levels. There are also changes to Medicaid and Medicare which would translate to about $500 billion in cost savings over 10 years, according to CBO. I have serious questions about these cost savings and what this will mean for current Medicare recipients over time. The expansion of Medicaid to historic levels also would add new mandates on cash-strapped states, which could mean higher state income and property taxes.
"Any health care reform plan put forward must control costs, not add billions of dollars to an already ballooning deficit and national debt. We must carefully weigh the implications of a costly new government spending program at a time when the country already owes more than $56 trillion in entitlement obligations. In addition, the national debt has doubled since 2000 and is nearing $12 trillion for the first time in our history. Our country is also facing unprecedented federal deficits, which could result in increased interest rates for consumers if we continue to finance government borrowing from foreign lenders.
"Our nation's financial future is in jeopardy and Congress must find a way to reverse the growing debt, not add to it. I have the leading bill in the House to establish a national bipartisan commission that would review entitlement spending with other federal spending and tax policy on the table, hold public meetings across the country to listen to the American people, and recommend a plan of action that Congress must vote up or down. If the nation's spending issues are left unchecked, it will be disastrous for future generations. (More information about the SAFE Commission is online at www.wolf.house.gov/SAFE.)
"During consideration of H.R. 3962, I supported a common-sense approach to health care reform sponsored by House Minority Leader John Boehner, which, unfortunately, failed by a vote of 176-258. This alternative focused on lowering health care premiums for families and small businesses and increasing access to affordable high-quality care, without adding to the crushing federal debt. Among its provisions, many of which I have cosponsored in separate legislation, the alternative would create high-risk insurance pools to guarantee that all Americans regardless of pre-existing conditions are able to have access to affordable health care; end junk lawsuits and curb the cost of defensive medicine through medical liability reforms modeled after successful state programs; allow small businesses to pool together and offer health care to employees at lower prices; allow Americans to shop for coverage and buy insurance across states lines, and allow dependents to remain on their parents insurance policies through age 25. The CBO estimated that under this alternative -- which includes ideas embraced by many on both sides of the aisle at a fraction of what H.R. 3962 costs -- average health care insurance premiums for families would decrease.
"When President Obama earlier this year directed Congress to come up with a health reform plan, I had hoped that both Republicans and Democrats could work together on this issue of such complexity in a bipartisan way and reach consensus on a patient-centered plan to address the needs ofthe uninsured, protect those with plans they like, and keep a lid on spending at a time when the country is reeling from recession and spiking unemployment.
"What the House majority leadership has presented, however, is just the opposite. They worked alone behind closed doors to craft H.R. 3962 which was introduced and voted on in under 10 days. I don't believe that is the right way to develop public policy. I had cosponsored a resolution urging leadership in Congress to make any health reform bill available online in its final form 30 days prior to being voted on in the House.
"The Senate is now working on its version of health care reform and House and Senate leaders are intent on passage of a final bill by Christmas. I again want to emphasize: it is important for Congress to fix what's broken with our nation's health insurance system. But we have to do it the right way. We need a plan that controls costs without adding billions of dollars to an already ballooning deficit; ensures competition and choice; provides that patients and their doctors make the decisions on medical care rather than a government-run agency, and addresses skyrocketing medical liability costs and tort reform.
"Congress has a lot more work to do to provide the kind of health reforms Americans want and need.