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A Healthy Alternative


Location: Unknown

Americans are angry. I am hearing from them every day. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to put the health care debates taking place in his White House on C-SPAN and to allow all stakeholders access to the table.

Of course, what the American people were promised and what the American people are getting are two different things. Instead of open, honest dialogue, House Democrats wrote their health care plan, HR 3200, behind closed doors and the president continues to make behind-the-scenes bargains with special interest groups. Even among Democrats, only a privileged few have been allowed to offer their input, with zero House Republicans even permitted in the room when one of the biggest pieces of legislation in this Congress was being drafted.

By now we all know the House Democrats' plan will be a boon for government bureaucrats but a yoke around the neck of the American taxpayer. We all know that it calls for over $800 billion in new taxes, taxes on Americans making as little as $10,000 per year. We know that it will virtually eliminate Medicare Advantage coverage for 11 million senior citizens and that it will put a presidentially appointed Health Czar in charge of our health care. We know that it will crowd-out the private market slowly but surely until all that is left is Uncle Sam's health care plan.

I want a different future for America, one that empowers individuals instead of empowering the government. I have heard too many times that Republicans are just the "Party of No." I reject that notion.

The Republican bill, HR 3400, the Empowering Patients First Act, written by Georgia Congressman Tom Price, represents a new beginning for America's health care system. It is one that places individuals squarely in charge of the decision making process.

The Empowering Patients First Act makes health care affordable for all Americans by extending a generous income tax deduction on health premiums to taxpayers who purchase coverage on the private market. The bill would also establish a refundable and advanceable tax credit for low-income individuals so that they could purchase insurance on the private market. Providing tax relief to hard-working Americans can supply affordability without anyone being forced out of their current insurance plan by the government.

Republicans answer to health care reform helps small businesses and their employees through the establishment of Association Health Plans. These health insurance pools allow small businesses and other organizations to band together to offer their employees health insurance. Spreading the risk over a large group of people keeps everyone's costs low.

HR 3400 also allows individuals to shop for insurance across state lines under certain circumstances. If a health care plan in Tennessee is cheaper than one in Georgia, it just makes sense for the government to allow you to go get that Tennessee-based plan. HR 3400 does all of this and much more, and I hope that you take some time to research it.

The motto of the State of New Hampshire is "Live Free or Die," and yet that is where President Obama chose to have a town hall meeting this week in order to convince Americans that they should become supplicants of Uncle Sam's health care. As Congressman Price has shown so well in his legislation, we can have health care reform without giving up our liberties. "Live Free or Die" challenges all Americans to remember what President Ronald Reagan said, that "freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction."

The freedom to choose the health care plan that is right for you and your family without the interference of heavy-handed government mandates should never be infringed.

Rep. John Linder, R-Duluth, has served in the House of Representatives since 1992.

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