Congress Debates Health Care and Education

In late February, I had the opportunity to participate in the first of a series of bipartisan Congressional debates.  Four Democrats and four Republicans held a reasoned, comprehensive debate in front of the American people, about issues that affect us all.

Each side had a chance to present their view for how America can foster economic growth and opportunity.  It’s a topic on the minds of many of you, my family members and families across the country.  We all want to be part of the American dream which includes home ownership, a good job, quality and affordable health care, an excellent education, and we want to leave our children a better America than we received from our parents.  As a new mother, I want all of these and more for my son.

For the most part, everyone agrees on these goals, but we have different views on how to reach these goals.

My colleagues on the other side of the aisle will argue that the government has the answers and that America’s problems are solved by spending more money and growing the role of federal government.  I disagree.

I believe the answers will be found across America.  We believe in unleashing the ingenuity, creativity, and hard work found among the entrepreneurs, small businesses, innovators, research and development labs found right here in Eastern Washington.
Two areas I want to focus on are healthcare and education. 

Let’s take a look at health care.  Nothing is probably more personal than one’s own health.  Every American should have health care coverage and the confidence that health care decisions will be made between the individual and their doctor.

No matter where I go in Eastern Washington, I hear concerns about the rising cost of health care from individuals, families, small business owners, corporations, cities, and counties.  Rising health care costs are impacting everyone.

I hear concerns about changing jobs and losing health insurance.  Many fear becoming seriously ill and having inadequate health care coverage.  Many seniors live with a fear of being turned away from a doctor’s office who has decided to no longer accept Medicare patients.

And at a time when America has a tremendous health care workforce need including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, doctors are retiring early or closing their practices and moving overseas due to the fear and expense of lawsuits.

But let’s not allow these fears and concerns to lead us to a government run, “one-size-fits-all,” health care solution.

We see this option next door in Canada.  The result: long waiting lines, rationed care, increased costs, reduced innovation, minimal choice, and excessive paperwork and bureaucracy.

You don’t want Washington DC bureaucrats making decisions about your health care.  Instead, we need a modernized health care system that includes expanding healthcare portability, expanding health information technology and expanding healthcare choices.

Health care is personal.  It begins with the individual.  An important aspect to our health care solution is Americans leading healthier lives.  We need to challenge America, starting right here in Eastern Washington, to be healthy.   

We need to be promoting health care centered around and driven by the individual.  The answers to our health care needs are found in personal healthy decisions, not a bigger role of federal government.  

Another way we can foster America’s economic growth and opportunity is to provide students with opportunities for a good education.  It is the doorway to success and a critical piece to making our country more competitive.

It should shock every one of you reading this that one out of every three of our kids will not graduate from high school.  The future of our country rests with our children and it’s our responsibility to ensure our children are ready to receive the mantle when it is passed.

We need to make sure those who want to go to college have the opportunity. The best way to do that is to fund grants and loan programs to make college affordable. That is why I have fought to restore funding to the Perkins Loan Program. This program provides valuable financial assistance to the disadvantaged. 

We also need to improve our competitiveness.  Today, over half of China’s undergraduate degrees are in math, science, technology and engineering. Yet, only 16 percent of American undergraduates pursue these fields. 

If current trends continue, by 2010, more than 90 percent of all scientists and engineers will be living in Asia, not the United States. It concerns me that South Korea will graduate more engineers that the U.S. this year.  Our innovation economy needs home-grow our own engineers, scientists and mathematicians.

That is why I support efforts to place well-qualified individuals to serve as content specialists in mathematics, science, and critical foreign language courses. For example, this would allow someone like Bill Gates to teach a computer course.

We cannot take for granted that America will continue to be innovative and prosperous unless our kids are well educated.  The very foundation of a democracy is based on an educated citizenry that weighs the choices that democracy presents.  For us to continue to be innovative and prosperous, we must have an education system which maximizes the potential of every child in America.

–By Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

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