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Op-Ed: I Am Committed To Passing Health Care Reform


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Op-Ed: I Am Committed To Passing Health Care Reform

As someone whose family includes doctors who count many Utahns as patients and as a father who wants a healthy future for his children, I have a deep commitment to passing comprehensive, deficit-neutral health care reform. Such an overhaul should lower costs for Utah families and businesses, increase the quality of care provided and expand access for every American.

The president has said he will not sign a health care bill that 1) adds to the deficit and 2) fails to lower the excessive growth of long term health costs. I share those goals. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill recently considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee fails on both counts.

Skyrocketing health care costs are straining family budgets, threatening the survival of small businesses and exploding our national deficit. Even Utahns with good insurance coverage know they are paying more and more in premiums, deductibles, and co-payments and they are getting less and less. Over the past nine years, premiums have doubled -- rising at twice the rate of wages.

Health care spending now consumes 30 percent more of state and local budgets than it did 20 years ago -- leaving less money for things like schools and public safety and increasing pressure to raise taxes. Costs are staggering for companies in Utah such as 1-800-Contacts, who, despite the challenge, continues to do the right thing by providing insurance benefits to hundreds of
Utah employees

The same is true for our country as a whole. Health care costs are the number one driver of our long-term deficits, which is why achieving health care reform is the single most important thing we can do for our nation's long-term fiscal health.

The status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable. Inaction is not an option.

But to preserve what is best about our system, we have to fix what is broken. If we don't contain explosive costs, everyone's insurance will be in jeopardy. Premiums will continue to rise, benefits will erode and the number of uninsured -- including the current 298,000 uninsured Utahns -- will swell.

There are health care reform bills being debated in a number of House and Senate committees. In my committee, House Energy and Commerce, I proposed substantive ideas about how to write bipartisan, common-sense, responsible health care reform legislation. Some of my changes were incorporated before the committee voted but several key concerns haven't yet been addressed.

My view is that in order to get real cost savings, we must reform the incentives of a system that automatically equates more expensive care with better care. Utah has been at the forefront of health information technology innovation and the development of practices which improve the quality of care and reduce costs. National health care reform should build on Utah's example.

We also need to align incentives for doctors and hospitals so that they're reimbursed based on the quality of care they provide, not on how many tests or procedures they prescribe. A third of the $2 trillion spent on health care in this country goes toward administrative costs, not to patient care. We must cut down on fraud, waste and abuse and create a more efficient, less bureaucratic system.

There is broad consensus that Americans currently without insurance be provided an opportunity to receive affordable coverage -- not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because when people without insurance have to be treated in the emergency room, we all end up paying for it. Insurers should not be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, should not be able to hike premiums when people become ill, and should invest in prevention and wellness programs.

Because the issue of health care reform is so complex and the imperative to get it right is so strong, I believe it is worth taking the necessary time to debate, amend, review and discuss with my constituents, any comprehensive bill. We can do this and bring affordability, stability and better health to all of us.

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