With health care costs growing at unsustainable rates, it is becoming increasingly difficult for small businesses to provide coverage for employees and more expensive for New Hampshire families to obtain affordable coverage. Congress needs to enact meaningful health care reforms that lower costs and improve quality.
Unfortunately, the $1.3 trillion, budget-busting bill passed by Rep. Paul Hodes and the House of Representative takes us in the wrong direction. Hodes' plan raises taxes on small businesses and makes it more difficult for them to provide health care for their employees; it cuts Medicare for seniors; and it paves the way for government rationing of health care.
That's why I have signed the Club for Growth Repeal It health care pledge, stating that, upon my election to the U.S. Senate, I will sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.
The Senate Democrats drafted their 2,733-page bill in secret, cutting back-room deals and holding their vote at 1 a.m., the weekend before Christmas. Why all the secrecy? They know the American people will be outraged by their plan, which raises taxes by $518 billion, cuts Medicare by $470 billion, and Congressional Budget estimates show will increase overall expenditures on health care by $200 billion over the next 10 years.
Congress should take a time-out and start over. We need to agree that any reform should meet the following principles: You should be allowed to keep your current plan if you choose; families and small businesses should be able to design a plan that meets their individual needs; Washington bureaucrats should not come between patients and their doctors; and it should not increase taxes or drive up our deficit.
I believe there are some common-sense reforms Congress could enact that would bend the cost curve of health care.
We should start with medical malpractice reform to reduce frivolous lawsuits. In underserved areas, the threat of these lawsuits has forced doctors out of practice, and this is especially true for obstetricians. As I travel the state, many doctors have told me they feel forced to practice defensive medicine out of fear of frivolous lawsuits. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that we could save $54 billion over the next 10 years if we enacted medical liability reform.
We should look more seriously at wellness programs that provide economic incentives for people to live healthy lives and use preventive care programs that have been implemented successfully by many large companies. Countless examples demonstrate that when wellness programs are used, insurance premiums go down and employees' health improves. Wellness is a win-win because we end up with lower health care costs and healthier families.
We need more transparency in our health care system. Health care is one of the only services we purchase where it is tremendously difficult to compare the prices of procedures and to obtain reliable information on quality. Consumers should have access to better information on the costs and quality of health care so they can make informed decisions about their own care.
We need to improve the efficiency and delivery of care with electronic medical records and better coordination of care. Patients who have chronic illnesses or diseases often have multiple doctors caring for them. Without coordinated care and physicians having access to complete information, a patient may receive duplicate tests or fail to receive the appropriate complementary treatment. Having electronic medical records and better coordination of care would save billions of dollars and provide patients with improved care.
We should allow small businesses to form a pool to purchase health insurance together. My husband, Joe, started a small business when he returned from serving in the Iraq War. Like other small business owners in New Hampshire and around the country, he has seen his health care costs explode over the last several years. By allowing small businesses to join together to purchase insurance, small businesses would have the same negotiating power as big companies. This can, and must, be done in a way that protects consumers. It is also inarguably true that when small businesses have lower health care costs, they are in a better position to create more jobs.
Finally, we should allow the purchase of insurance across state lines. This would create competition, driving down the cost of insurance. Additionally, it would give us more options to choose from when purchasing insurance.
There is no single silver bullet to solve our nation's health care problems. However, by using common sense, Congress can enact reforms drafted in the public's eye --instead of through back-room deals -- that reduce costs and provide us with better health care without raising taxes and driving up our deficit.