By Ron Kind
We must continue to reform our health care system to provide higher quality care and a better price for all Americans.
But what do you call a plan that denies health care to 300,000 Wisconsin children with pre-existing conditions? A plan that takes from 27,511 young adults in Wisconsin the coverage they've gained through their parents' plans? What do you call a plan that denies more than 60,000 Wisconsin seniors with Medicare the $53 million they saved in prescription drug expenses over the past two years? One that turns away the 2,142,000 Wisconsinites, including 791,000 women and 580,000 children, due to lifetime limits on coverage? A plan that allows insurance companies to deny coverage to individuals when they get sick or injured? Lastly, what do you call a plan that eliminates tax cuts for 4,200 small businesses in our state to help them afford coverage for their employees?
We would have to call it the Ryan/Romney plan. The Republican budget repeals the Affordable Care Act and the important provisions it includes. Furthermore, it "reforms" Medicare by destroying it. The Ryan plan replaces the current guaranteed Medicare benefit with a voucher for seniors to shop in the private health care market.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the proposed budget, out-of-pocket costs for the average senior will be more than $1,200 higher by 2030 and $5,900 higher by 2050. AARP even said, "the proposal . . . would likely 'price out' traditional Medicare as a viable option, thus rendering the choice of traditional Medicare as a false promise." In addition, the plan endangers access to care for low-income beneficiaries and people with disabilities under BadgerCare, which would suffer cuts of up to 48% under the GOP budget.
Instead of reducing health care costs, the Republican budget merely shifts them onto seniors without making improvements to the health care system. It fails to change the way care is delivered, allowing the health care system to continue spending $800 billion a year in public and private health care plans on tests and procedures that don't work and don't improve patient care. And it does nothing to address the 50 million uninsured Americans whose costs when they get sick or injured are shifted to those who have insurance.
There is a better way to reduce health care spending. I'm working with our Wisconsin health care providers to reform our delivery system and change the way we pay for health care so it's more integrated, coordinated and patient-focused, improves quality and lowers costs. This is exactly what our providers in Wisconsin are calling for and exactly what the Affordable Care Act takes steps to do.
The act will lower Medicare spending by promoting value-based purchasing focused on high quality care; reducing preventable hospital readmissions; fighting waste, fraud and abuse; and promoting innovation. The Affordable Care Act makes historic reductions in health care spending while significantly improving patient care and strengthening Medicare.
As we debated health care reform, a mother introduced me to her 1-year-old son and shared their story. Her son had a seizure while he was in her womb. Therefore, upon his first breath, the parents were told he was uninsurable due to a pre-existing condition. We are better than that as a nation.
I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit our troops in the field, and I thought I'd met the bravest America has to offer. But if my Republican colleagues can tell children like the one I met, that not only do they choose not to do anything to help them but under their proposed budget they will take away health care coverage - they must be the bravest in the world.
There is no doubt that we need to slow health care spending, the fastest-growing area of local, state and federal budgets. But it shouldn't be done on the backs of seniors and the disadvantaged as the Ryan/Romney plan proposes. We must work together and continue steps taken through the Affordable Care Act to strengthen Medicare and improve our health care system so all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.
Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee and serves on the health subcommittee. He is also founder and co-chair of the Quality Care Coalition and member of the House Rural Health Care Caucus.