FOLLOWING the health care roundtable at the White House, the president boldly declared: "Now is the time to make a decision" on the direction of health care reform.
His decision has indeed been made. The purely partisan health care bill will be moved forward through the use of a budget process called reconciliation in a last-ditch effort to force his health care bill on the American people.
The president's decision to move forward is in direct contravention of the will of over half the country, with recent polls indicating only a 44 percent approval rate of the Democrats' bill.
We all share the common goal of providing access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
But at a time of record spending and unprecedented debt, estimates have shown that the bill will cost upwards of $2.4 trillion when fully implemented. Even worse, the Washington Post estimates President Obama's version of reform, which will soon accompany the Senate bill, could add up to $200 billion more to the final price tag.
Not only is the bill expensive for the country, it is also specifically and unfairly expensive for the people of West Virginia. The Democrats' plan includes carve-outs and kickbacks for select states at the expense of our state and others.
Specifically, this bill will force our state to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a massive Medicaid expansion.
West Virginia is not alone in facing this unfunded mandate from the federal government, and Democratic and Republican governors alike have been vocal critics of this bill.
While I do not support this bill, I believe in the need for an improved health care system. I am proud to have worked on expanding health care access to West Virginia's most vulnerable citizens - our children and seniors.
I was an integral player in the creation of the Children's Health Insurance Program in West Virginia, which now insures more than 25,000 children who would otherwise be without coverage, and I diligently fought for a Medicare prescription drug bill that now ensures that 94 percent of eligible seniors in our state have coverage.
Despite our state's progress in these areas, there is much work to be done in extending access to those in our state who simply cannot afford access to quality care. Small businesses and individuals are being crushed.
I agree with the president that the need for health care reform is urgent, which is why the Democrats' refusal to consider incremental reforms, as proposed by Republicans, is so perplexing.
There are common-sense solutions that will almost immediately lower costs and increase access to health care.
Reforms such as enacting medical malpractice reform, prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating based on preexisting conditions, promoting wellness and increasing competition across state lines have the support to pass tomorrow, but the president and his party refuse to consider them unless they are tied to a bill that is a quagmire of debt and spending.
Now is the time to get serious about taking steps toward ensuring that all West Virginians have access to health insurance. The Mountain State deserves better.
House Democrats have the power in their hands to listen to the country's pleas, scrap this bill, reach across the aisle and start fresh with the ideas we all agree on.
The time has never been better for bipartisan action on health reform.