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Issue Position: Health Care

Issue Position

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Date:
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The health care system in America is broken. Costs are rising at an unacceptable rate--more than doubling over the last 10 years, which is nearly four times the rate of wage growth. Too many patients feel trapped by health care decisions dictated by insurers and HMOs. Too many doctors are torn between practicing medicine and practicing insurance. And some 47 million Americans worry what will happen to them or their children if they get sick.

As a physician, I am keenly aware that our country needs health care reform. I support comprehensive reform which would enable every American to enjoy health coverage, lower costs, increase patient choice, improve access and quality, and protect the patient-physician relationship.

Universal access to high quality health care is possible, and Americans are justified to expect it. We have the best doctors in the world…the best scientists in the world… the best hospitals in the world. Now America needs to build the best health care in the world. We need to empower patients, and reduce the power of government and insurance bureaucrats. Every American should be able to get the care they need.

We will move closest to this goal when we promote the same innovation and competition in health care that we see in every other American industry. America should achieve universal access in a way that puts individual Americans in charge of their own health care decisions. We need American solutions.

In May 2009, I introduced my own health care reform solution, the Patients' Choice Act (S. 1099) which would accomplish these goals. The Patients' Choice Act would put individuals in charge of their health care decisions and would increase access, affordability, and choice of health care plans. This proposal is a clear market-based reform that seeks to strengthen the relationship between the patient and the doctor.

Let me briefly to highlight a few points:

* Americans save more money. The Patients' Choice Act equalizes the tax treatment of health insurance and enables every American to buy health insurance with a tax credit, regardless of employment status, age, health condition or the resources to purchase health insurance. This means that about nine in 10 American households would see a tax cut, and for patients and families making under $250,000 annually, their health insurance premium costs would generally be lower. Employers would still be able to deduct from their taxes the cost of providing health insurance to their employees, but millions of Americans who do not currently receive health insurance would have real buying power.

* States offer solutions. The Patients' Choice Act incentivizes states to establish State Exchanges, which would offer high-quality, affordable health insurance to all individuals, regardless of their employment status, age, health condition, or pre-existing conditions. Health insurance plans sold in a State Exchange would offer the high-quality health plans like Members of Congress receive.

* Seniors fare better. The Patients' Choice Act protects seniors. Unlike some proposals being considered in Congress, my plan is not financed by arbitrary and drastic cuts to Medicare. As a practicing physician, I know how many seniors rely on Medicare and I am committed to reforming Medicare. My plan would significantly reduce the high rate of Medicare fraud compared to today's practices. This policy change alone would improve Medicare's solvency, ensure taxpayer dollars are not wasted, and help us keep our commitment to America's seniors. My plan would also improve competition and value under Medicare Advantage, and allow seniors making healthy decisions to save more.

* No new spending, no new taxes. According to our estimates Patients' Choice Act does not require new spending or new taxes. It is my intent to address our health care crisis my fixing incentivizes in the system and reallocating existing money. Americans already spend $2.4 trillion a year on health care, which means that we need to figure out ways to spend our health care dollars more effectively instead of drastically increasing spending. In fact, one independent estimate said my bill could save taxpayers $70 billion and ensure a majority of currently uninsured Americans.

* Transforms Medicaid to provide real coverage and care. The Patients' Choice Act transforms Medicaid by building upon the innovations we have seen in a number of states. My plan would integrates low-income families with dependent children into higher quality private plans through a tax credit and direct financial assistance. Keeping families together within one provider network will foster coordinated, personalized care and promote innovative patient care models such as medical homes. My plan also maintains current law for benefit security and stable funding for individuals with disabilities but enables better care management. This would improve the health coverage and care for about 45 million Americans, and save taxpayers about $260 billion. States would save a lot as well: about $960 billion over 10 years!

* Invests in prevention and wellness. The Patients' Choice Act invests in prevention and wellness for all Americans. Currently, five preventable chronic diseases cause two-thirds of American deaths and consume 75 percent of our total health expenditures each year. These chronic diseases are largely preventable. My plan's investment in public health and disease prevention will help reduce health care costs and improve the quality of Americans' lives.

* Less government control and no government-run plan. The Patients' Choice Act increases patient control and decreases government control. I strongly oppose the creation of any new government-run health care plan. A government-run program would only compound existing problems, by giving taxpayer dollars to Washington bureaucrats who would wield undue control over Americans' health care decisions. A new government health care plan would also mean that millions of Americans would lose their current health care. Furthermore, socialized governmental systems stay afloat by rationing care and letting people die before their time. Numerous studies, reports, and media have shown that necessary medical procedures are delayed far too long in countries where there is socialized medicine. A government-run plan is not the answer. A government-run plan would unfortunately operate with the compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the federal Katrina response. It will not meet the basic needs of our citizens, reduce costs or improve outcomes, so I will continue to oppose it.

All Americans should have the ability to make their own health care decisions, see the doctor they want, and get the care they need. As a practicing physician and two-time cancer survivor, I support targeted, sensible health care reform which builds on what works and fixes what is broken. I will fight for solutions that strengthen the relationship between patients and doctors, solutions that put patients --not Washington bureaucrats -- in charge of their health care decisions and provide common-sense solutions to our nation's health care crisis.


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