Op-Ed: The Issue Of Our Day: Health Care
The future of health care in America has grabbed the attention of my constituents in Morris, Sussex, Somerset, Passaic and Essex counties like few subjects have in recent years. Over the past few months, I have corresponded and interacted with more than 12,000 residents who have their own personal perspectives on plans offered by President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a government takeover of health care.
Like my Congressional colleagues, I welcome views, strongly held, on all sides of this critically important issue. Certainly, the consequences of our actions will affect the lives of every American -- young and old -- forever!
I represent an overwhelmingly well-educated and engaged constituency which is worried that the quality of their health care, including their access to their own doctors, is being threatened. They know that H.R. 3200, a massive 1,200- page bill, is a work in progress' which could be passed quickly, with little debate, along partisan lines. Speaker Pelosi has said as much when she declared in July, We have the votes!
Yet important questions still abound. The all-important fine print' is still be drafted and much of that process is going on behind closed doors. As I have told innumerable groups of senior citizens, doctors, hospital employees, small and large businesses and constituents in any number of venues, definitive answers are hard to find.
For example: Will individuals be forced out of their current health coverage? Will they get to keep their own doctor? Will nationalizing' health care mean delays for treatment, diagnostic tests, or simple office visits? How much will care cost? Who will pay? Will it expand the deficit and our national debt? Will our excellent local hospitals -- Morristown Memorial, Chilton Memorial, St. Clares, St. Barnabas, Somerset Medical Center -- survive federal cuts to their bottom lines?
Let me be clear: I support reform. But I do not support the reform' embodied in the latest version of the H.R. 3200, introduced in the House of Representatives.
I support efforts to make quality health care coverage affordable and accessible for every American. Any time a child or a parent goes without the care they need, it represents a very serious personal crisis for that family.
Specifically, as a starting point, I support:
* allowing portability' of health coverage, so you can take it with you from job to job and state to state;
* requiring insurance companies to cover individuals with pre-existing medical conditions;
* encouraging doctors to treat indigent and low-income patients by allowing the physicians to deduct the costs of treatment they provided as a write-off from their federal taxes.
* tort reform to reduce junk medical lawsuits that unnecessarily drive up costs for doctors, hospitals and other health providers;
* increasing support for medical education to prepare more young men and women to become doctors, nurses and health providers to ensure that patients have access to trained professionals;
* reducing fraud, waste and abuse in medical care.
These are real reforms that both Republican and Democrats could agree upon today.
As health care affects every man, woman and child in America, it is important that we get it right.
Unfortunately, President Obama and the Congressional Majority are not getting it right. They seem intent on a government takeover of health care that would have devastating consequences for families and small businesses. Such a takeover will raise taxes, weaken Medicare, ration care, and let unelected government bureaucrats in Washington make medical decisions that may end up denying access to medical care and life-saving treatments. After all, despite what the President says, more than 180 million Americans are at risk of losing their current private health care under a government-run plan! In addition, proposed budget cuts could threaten the very existence of our fine local hospitals. Moreover, the Democrats' current health care plan is financially unsound and will add to, and not lessen, our staggering national debt.
As Congress returns to Washington, it is time for Republicans and Democrats to work together. We must take the opportunity to engage anew the doctors, nurses, lawyers, insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and others to help us achieve what matters most: more affordable, more accessible, more individualized and personalized health care.
Of course, I welcome the opportunity to respond to the thoughts, ideas and concerns of my constituents as the developments of the August recess' resonate across our state.