When Congress debated the health care bill last year, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously quipped, “We have to pass the bill, so you can find out what is in it.” One year later, the negative impacts of this law are clear: health care costs continue to rise and access to care has been jeopardized for thousands of Americans.
During the debate, supporters of the flawed law pledged to put an end to escalating health care costs with the passage of the $2.6 trillion law. However, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office now estimates the law, when fully implemented, will increase annual premiums for families by an average of $2,100. Medicare’s chief actuary estimates the law will increase health care spending by $311 billion over the next decade. And consumers will face a staggering increase of $813 billion in taxes.
President Obama promised more Americans would have access to health care – but the new law jeopardizes access for thousands of Kansas seniors. Rather than strengthen the existing Medicare program, according to Medicare’s actuary, the new law will cause more than one in 10 hospitals to face severe financial challenges within a decade, and one in four in the longer-term. This could have a devastating impact on rural communities in Kansas, where 75 percent of our hospitals are located.
Despite the popular pledge that Americans could keep their current health care coverage under the new law – the Obama Administration now estimates 69 percent of all businesses will be forced to give up their current insurance plans.
Clearly, the law fails to accomplish what was promised and makes many problems worse. It is no surprise that one year later a majority of Americans still oppose this flawed plan. Instead of growing the government and forcing patients, providers and taxpayers to foot the bill, we must replace this law with commonsense reforms that increase competition and choice in our health care system. The result would be exactly what Kansans asked for in the first place: lower costs and greater access to quality care.
First, we must increase competition between insurance companies by allowing Americans to shop for coverage from coast to coast, regardless of their home state. Today, individuals can only purchase insurance from companies that offer policies within their state – reducing choices and increasing costs for millions of Americans. When Americans can shop across state lines, competition in the free market will help drive down costs, resulting in more choices.
Secondly, we must give states flexibility to address the health care needs of their unique populations. Unfortunately, the new law vastly expands Medicaid, which is already bankrupting state budgets. In Kansas this year, the state is set to spend around $2.8 billion on Medicaid and will now be forced to spend an additional $150 million over the next decade. Rather than burdening states with unfunded mandates, we should allow them to implement innovative ideas to care for low-income residents – such as coupling insurance plans with cost-effective health savings accounts.
Thirdly, we must reform our medical liability system and reduce frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of health care. Too often, patients receive unnecessary services because their doctors fear being sued – a practice called defensive medicine. This inflates insurance premiums and costs patients $70-124 billion per year – more than 10 percent of total health care expenditures annually.
Lastly, we must support small businesses by enabling them to pool together when purchasing insurance plans for their employees. By coming together, companies will have access to more competitively priced insurance plans and can pass those savings along to their employees and their families.
These are just a few commonsense reforms that could improve our current health care system, reduce costs and keep personal health care decisions between patients and their doctors – where they belong.
One year after passage, the so-called health care reform law is yet another example of Washington’s “one-size-fits-all” approach – an approach that has failed many times before. The simple truth is our health care challenges can be addressed without sacrificing quality and access to care. In order to do so, we must replace this damaging new law with reforms proven to strengthen our health care system.