On November 7, the House of Representatives considered Speaker Nancy Pelosi's healthcare reform bill, and I chose to stand against it and vote no. It was not a decision that I made lightly, and it came after months of debate, study and personal meetings with constituents.
Over the summer and into the fall, I held dozens of meetings and townhalls and heard from constituents both for and against the Democrats' healthcare reform. I heard great concern that government healthcare would lead to rationing and mountains of debt. I heard concerns that we need to broaden coverage and reduce rising costs. Mostly, I heard that residents of the 16th District do not approve of a government takeover of 17 percent of the economy.
I have many reasons for voting against Speaker Pelosi's bill.
First, this plan does nothing to address the most pressing problem facing American healthcare: the looming insolvency of Medicare. I actually believe that it will make the problem worse.
The Medicare trustees report that "fund assets are projected to be exhausted in 2017." Medicare has tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, and yet the bill does nothing to place this important program on a solid footing. Instead, hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts in Medicare will be used to provide for a new government health program, the so-called "public option."
I believe this public option will quickly become the only healthcare option for millions of Americans. While Speaker Pelosi says that this plan will merely "compete" with private insurance plans, they will not compete on a level playing field. The public option will not have to pay taxes, will not be subject to endless lawsuits, and will not have to abide by expensive state regulations and mandates. In other words, the public option will have a significant competitive advantage over private insurance. Given the stated preference of leading Democrats for a "single payer" government healthcare monopoly, I believe the public option is intended to ultimately become that government monopoly.
Second, President Obama has insisted that this plan will not raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000. This plan will subject middle-class Americans a 2.5 percent penalty for not carrying government approved insurance. This is a tax and failure to pay it could lead to fines and even five years of jail time. It will not just be millionaires who have to pay up.
Third, Speaker Pelosi's plan calls for Medicaid to cover millions more Americans. The federal government, however, is not solely responsible for funding Medicaid and will only cover the state's costs part of the way. States will be forced to find ways to cover these new individuals. When federal subsidies for Medicaid end in 2019, Pennsylvania would be forced to find an additional $930 million per year. The state will either have to raise taxes or cut critical programs like education and transportation.
Finally, this bill will raise costs for small businesses currently struggling to provide insurance for their employees. New taxes and new regulations will drive up premiums, forcing businesses to choose to either maintain payroll or maintain health insurance. The House Ways and Means Committee, using data from the Congressional Budget Office, estimates that 5.5. million jobs could be lost in the first ten years after passage of this bill.
There are more reasons for my concern, and I have issued a detailed memo explaining both my objections to Speaker Pelosi's bill and what I think should be done to reform healthcare. I have posted this memo on my website and will send it to any constituent who contacts my office. I agree that our healthcare system needs to be fixed. Costs are rising too fast and too many Americans go without insurance coverage. I voted no, but I will not stand in the way of sensible reform that protects our freedom.