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January 23rd, 2011

Latham: Health Care Reform The American People Really Want

By Congressman Tom Latham

This week, I voted with a majority of my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal last year’s job-destroying health care law off the books.  The law is a massive trillion-dollar legislative disaster that cannot meet its own policy objectives. The American people made it clear from the outset of the health care debate that they wanted reform legislation to make health care more affordable and accessible in this country.  But the bill that finally made its way to President Obama’s desk will increase premiums for millions of Americans, destroy jobs and increases the deficit.  The legislation missed the mark so widely that it has become necessary to repeal the bill and replace it with what the American people had in mind all along.

The new health care law increases the size and scope of the federal government, creating 160 new federal boards, bureaucracies and commissions.  Perhaps even more disturbingly, the new taxes and mandates contained in the legislation will hamper the ability of small businesses and employers to create jobs.

For instance, the new law penalizes businesses that don’t offer employees health coverage the government deems acceptable, making it more expensive for employers to offer health insurance to workers.  As the economy continues to struggle, most companies are likely to pass those costs onto employees in the form of higher premiums.  In response to these new mandates and penalties, businesses may have to stop hiring new workers, cut wages or raise the prices of their products or services – all options we can’t afford as we rebuild our economy.

Supporters of the reform legislation have employed a number of accounting gimmicks to create the illusion that the reforms are fiscally responsible.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  For instance, the new law creates new taxes and mandates almost immediately while some of its key benefits don’t kick in for four years.  The result is a skewed picture of the legislation’s true long-term costs.

I originally voted against the new health care law and voted for its repeal this week.  However, I want to make it clear that I’m also working on solutions to address the real problems that exist in our health care system.  This week I  introduced legislation that adheres to the principles of competition and limited government.  My solution will lower health care costs for millions of Americans without creating giant government programs and entitlements, and it will deliver the results Iowans are asking for while staying fiscally responsible by not adding a penny to the deficit.  Perhaps most importantly, the legislation I introduced on Thursday reflects a respect and understanding of the bounds placed on our government by the Constitution.

H.R. 364, the “Common Sense Health Reform Americans Actually Want Act,” would lower health insurance premiums by allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines, and it would establish small business health plans so small businesses can pool together to negotiate lower premiums for employees.  It also includes common-sense medical malpractice reform, which could save taxpayers more than $50 billion, not to mention additional savings in total health expenditures by Americans as the practice of “defensive” medicine is reduced.  Finally, my legislation would retain the portions of the new health care law for which there was bipartisan agreement and wide support among the American people, including preventing insurers from unjustly canceling policies, requiring coverage for children’s pre-existing conditions and allowing dependents to remain on their parents’ policies until the age of 26.

It also directly addresses the issue of pre-existing conditions by modifying and expanding high-risk pools to cover, at an affordable rate, anyone with a pre-existing condition who is unable to obtain affordable health insurance elsewhere.

The House of Representatives took an important step toward fixing the flaws in our country’s health care system by voting to repeal this disastrous health care law.  But we must follow this vote with action to put in place new reforms that will get the results the American people are asking for.  I’ll work to do just that.

And, as this process continues I will need the unique input of Iowans. I invite you to please contact me with your concerns and views on how Congress can best address America’s health care needs.   As I have always said, because health care reform will touch the lives of every single American, when the dust settles and the debate ends, we must be sure we’ve done the right thing for current and future generations.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Photo by Dave Davidson

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The Iowa Republican

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