Published in Eastern Washington weeklies
I was inside the Supreme Court last week when Chief Justice Roberts announced the Court’s historic ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. As a mom of two young children, a wife who helps balance the family budget, and someone who helped run a family-owned small business, I was stunned by the Supreme Court’s decision – especially to uphold the individual mandate, which is an unprecedented expansion of government power.
Let there be no mistake – just because the Court upheld the law as constitutional doesn’t mean it’s a good law. In fact, it’s a terrible law. For starters, it fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and the government. Even Chief Justice Roberts admitted that in his decision. For the first time in history, Congress will be able to tax you for something you don’t do, as opposed to something you do.
Since the law took effect two years ago, premiums have skyrocketed – on average, $2,100 per family. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, up to 20 million Americans will lose their employer-provided health insurance. The law raises taxes by over $500 billion and cuts Medicare by another $500 billion. And there is no question the law is making it harder for small businesses to hire new employees. For all of these reasons and more, the American people oppose this law. In fact, more people oppose it today than ever.
The problem with ObamaCare is that it takes a Big Government approach to one of the most personal things in our life – our health care, and the health care of those we care about. The reason our health care system was suffering from problems even before ObamaCare is that government mandates have distorted the marketplace, raising costs for the insured while leaving millions unable to afford insurance. ObamaCare just compounded those problems.
The American people don’t want ObamaCare, and Congress is listening to the people. The Court’s ruling will have no impact on Congress’ continuing efforts to repeal the law. In fact, we are more determined than ever to repeal it and replace it with something better.
What we need to do is adopt a “patient-centered” approach, in which patients are put in charge of their health care. When it comes to health care decisions, you should be in control – not the insurance companies and not the government.
Instead of celebrating the Court’s decision, President Obama should work with Republicans to advance this process. By working together, we can implement a series of common-sense, step-by-step reforms that empower patients, putting you at the center of the decision-making process. By making health care work more like a free market – in which you are in control and insurers compete for your business – we can use the principles of choice and competition to lower costs, spur innovation and keep our health care system on the cutting edge.
There is already a consensus on some legislation which does that – including letting people buy insurance across state lines, letting businesses pool together to purchase insurance and medical liability reform. That’s a good start. But we need to do more.
The key is to do it in a practical way while also keeping it affordable for taxpayers. Keep in mind, the government already spends over $1 trillion on health care every year, and often, that money doesn’t ensure health care access.
We see that with Medicare. Theoretically, every senior is covered through Medicare. But very few doctors are taking new Medicare patients these days. That’s because the government isn’t reimbursing them enough for Medicare expenses. And under ObamaCare, their reimbursements will shrink even more. What happens then?
The Big Government approach to health care is already hanging on by a thread and ObamaCare is threatening to snip the cord. We need a new approach – a better approach.
We already know the principles of better health care reform – empowering patients, expanding markets, and protecting the vulnerable. As for how we turn that into legislation, that will be a continuing process. But I’m confident that a step-by-step, bipartisan approach will be better than the one that led to ObamaCare.
I pledge to keep fighting for a better way on health care. Together, we have the power to build a true 21st century innovative health care system.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers represents Eastern Washington in Congress.