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Deficit Reduction -- Step 1: Making Health Care Affordable


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Families across western Wisconsin know a budget is about priorities. Responsible budgeting also means making smart investments that will help you down the road. In this economic environment, we must come together to solve the challenge of creating good paying jobs while remaining dedicated to reducing our nation's deficit. I am committed to making the tough decisions to support investments and programs that are vital to our economy and at the same time cutting wasteful and unnecessary spending. When times are tough, western Wisconsin families tighten their belts and that's exactly what we need to do in Washington.

My deficit reduction plan includes reducing ineffective spending from four key areas. The first is health care. Rising health care costs are the largest and fastest growing area of spending in the federal budget. If we do not address how health care is delivered and how we pay for it, we will never reduce the deficit.

We must change the way we pay for health care to get costs under control. Fortunately, by working with our health care providers in western Wisconsin, there are tools in place under health care reform that will put us on the right path. We need to keep moving toward a health care system that provides better care at a better cost. Studies show that one third of health care dollars, close to $800 billion each year, is spent on ineffective tests and procedures that do not help the patient. We should start addressing these unnecessary costs by changing Medicare's volume-based payments to value-based payments, exactly what our providers in western Wisconsin have been advocating. Prominent Republicans such as Newt Gingrich, Senator Bill Frist, Secretary Tommy Thompson and Mark McClellan have embraced this goal. And, at my insistence, the Institute of Medicine has formed a panel to change Medicare payments to reward quality outcomes and present an actionable plan for implementation.

The health care reform law that was signed into law last March reduces the deficit by $1.2 trillion. I believe we can reduce costs further by changing how we pay for health care while improving its quality. Repealing this law would mean increased out-of-pocket costs, higher prescription drug prices, more uninsured families, and exploding budget deficits. That is not fiscally responsible and is something we just cannot afford.

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