Op-Ed: Responsible Healthcare Reform Is Needed
Congress and the American people are currently immersed in the healthcare reform debate. It is being debated not only in Congressional committee rooms, but in boardrooms, break rooms and kitchen tables across the country. It is critically important we get this healthcare reform done right and done responsibly. Several Congressional committees have been working for weeks. Negotiations are ongoing and should be allowed to continue until a consensus healthcare reform bill is written. However, to say I have deep, serious concerns about the present direction of healthcare reform being discussed in the House would be a gross understatement and, in its current form, I will not support it.
Every American should be asking how healthcare reform would affect their businesses, their families and their finances. The details we already know raise real questions about access to care for South Jersey families and the future of the critical doctor-patient relationship. This legislation ignores the legitimate concerns of our healthcare providers, mandates all Americans to pay for coverage or pay a fine, and proposes large tax increases on small businesses. Equally concerning is the creation of new bureaucracies with an independent commission and so-called health czar,' who would not be held accountable to the American people.
Justified anxiety also lies in what we do not know. The details that are currently unknown could pose a substantial threat to individuals who like their current healthcare coverage. Previously routine preventative screenings, such as mammograms for women, could plausibly be restricted based on risk or age. Services once offered under one's private plan could be denied under the newly-created government plan.
The current House bill is especially bad news for South Jersey. Specifically, given our state's already high taxes, having many of our small businesses mandated to provide coverage to employees or pay a penalty would cripple job-creation opportunities. With significant cuts to federal reimbursement rates, our home health care providers and community-based doctors may no longer be able to care for those who rely on Medicare, and our local hospitals would face $330 million in cuts over the next decade.
My serious concerns are echoed by the various local healthcare professionals - from nurses to doctors to the heads of our local hospitals, hospices and home health providers - I've consulted. I have also discussed the positives and negatives with our local Chambers of Commerce, various small business owners and our seniors. And, each day, I review phone opinions from my constituents. It is critical we all understand the real effects of how proposed reforms will impact healthcare in our region.
August gives us an opportunity to take a step back, re-examine and rethink the entire package, and spend the time to write legislation that keeps its focus on ensuring access for patients, protecting the doctor-patient relationship, and promoting the results-oriented goal of healthy outcomes. I believe the final bill should include provisions that make preventative care more accessible; eliminate restrictions on coverage for those with preexisting conditions; recruit and train more primary care physicians; and an increased investment in community health centers. And the bill must include real, critical reforms, such as medical malpractice reform, that would bring down the total cost of healthcare. The current House bill is not that bill and therefore, without substantive and substantial changes, I will not support it.