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Public Statements

Tampa Tribune - Showing True Compassion

Op-Ed

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By Representative Dennis Ross

I'm no theologian, but I am pretty sure you cannot stand before almighty God on the Day of Judgment and say, "I paid my taxes."

No, our obligation to our fellow man is not collective; it is personal.

The late president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Adrian Pierce Rogers, once famously said, "The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else." And he is absolutely right.

The recent Obamacare decision only crystalized this truth.

I can already hear what some may be saying. That I don't care about the uninsured. That I am heartless and callous to the needy. That I am "unfair."

Nothing could further from the truth. On the contrary, there is nothing "warm-hearted" about a mom and dad needing to work an extra job to pay the taxes to finance waste and fraud in Medicaid. There is nothing "caring" about 15 unelected bureaucrats telling seniors what procedures the government will allow them to have. There is nothing "fair" about a government formula deciding what health insurance is best for me and my family. And since when is solidifying big insurance monopolies and payoffs to big Pharma, as Obamacare does, good for progress?

I know what some, especially Obamacare supporters, are saying. "Republicans didn't do anything about health care for years -- where were you then?" And they are right. I was not in Congress, but I am not here to defend my party. My history, if nothing else, will show that I am not afraid to be honest when my party does wrong. On health care, my party, nationally, has been woefully inept. But two wrongs don't make a right, and the inability of Washington Republicans to offer a coherent alternative does not make Obamacare, by default, the right path.

I believe we can harness the inherent compassionate nature of the American people and couple it with the power of the free market to keep costs low and quality high.

Before we do that, we must establish that health care is not a right. I know this may sound harsh, but it is true. Health care is a service given by one person to another. You no more have a right to someone caring for you, giving you medicine or operating on you than you have a right for your neighbor to cut your lawn, wash your car or babysit your child. No, health care is the benevolence of doctors who spend a decade or more in school to heal the sick. Health care is the heart of a nurse dedicating their life to the care of others. There is no indentured servitude in America, and no one has a "right" to the services of another.

The question then is not how we force one person to finance the decisions of another. Instead, it becomes how we reward those who answer the call to serve and incentivize Americans to aid their fellow man.

First, we allow health insurance to be sold across state lines with no coverage requirements. Anyone who recently purchased a television, computer, cellphone or thousands of other products knows competition works to reduce cost and raise quality and choice. Anyone who thinks health insurance is different is taking too many pills.

Second, we allow any group of people, small businesses, social organizations, etc., to band together as a group to buy from these companies. Why must we all remain stuck to an employer for health care? Give the tax deduction to the individuals and churches, Kiwanis, VFW, American Legion, Boys & Girls Club or any other organization with a membership. Use those numbers and bargain for health insurance that their members own and is not tied to an employer. I dare say you will remain a member of a church far longer than you will remain an employee of your current company.

Third, why can I sponsor a child a thousand miles overseas but not a kid in America without health insurance? With the amount of money Americans donate to charity each year (more than $300 billion), every uninsured child in America could have health insurance, sponsored by the tax-deductible charitable donations of their fellow Americans (corporations, too), and there would still be $275 billion left over. (That is assuming twice the average per-child premium, just to be safe) That includes kids with pre-existing conditions.

Fourth, tie Medicaid funding to loser-pays tort reform and end joint and several liability. In 2010, according to a Harvard University study, malpractice litigation cost Americans $56 billion (or twice the cost of insuring every uninsured child). Litigation costs have risen more than 10 percent per year since 1975. It must stop.

Lastly, we cover pre-existing conditions in adults with health status insurance. Akin to reinsurance, each health insurance policy purchased in America would have a health status component. This small premium per month would insure against the increase in premiums in the event of a chronic illness. This backstop works in all other forms of insurance. It would end the incentive for insurers to drop people who get sick and would not be tied to an employer under reforms listed above. Even if we wanted to subsidize health status insurance payments for all uninsured adults, the cost to cover that would be $48 billion. The current Medicaid budget exceeds $250 billion.

These are just a few of the dozens of ideas that rely on the best of America. They are also, unlike government-run health care, ideas that are proven to work. I don't know about my friends on the left, but as for me, I agree with what Martin Luther King Jr. said: "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."


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