The Senate Finance Committee recently approved Senator Max Baucus’ bill to reform the nation’s health care system.
Every Democrat on the Committee voted to approve this big government plan; all but one Republican opposed it.
I opposed it because it not only won’t reduce health care costs (which is the No. 1 goal), but, for many Americans, it will actually make things worse.
Many Americans, including middle-income families and the chronically ill, will see their insurance premiums go up and their taxes increased.
Others, like seniors, will see their health care choices eliminated.
And everybody should be concerned about rationing of health care under this bill.
Additionally, while the president and proponents of the bill like to say that it won’t “add a penny” to the deficit, it’s not free. Someone has to pay the trillion-dollar tab. That someone is you.
Seniors, for instance, will feel the effects of Medicare cuts. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates this bill cuts Medicare spending by $449.4 billion over 10 years, thereby “paying for” nearly half of the bill’s costs.
Hundreds of billions of dollars will be cut from hospitals, nursing homes, home health care providers, and hospice care.
Nearly $120 billion would be slashed from the Medicare Advantage program on which many Arizona seniors rely. Seniors like the choices and benefits they now have, and they don’t deserve to have them taken away to help pay for a new entitlement.
Does anyone doubt these massive cuts will reduce seniors’ care? Here are just three ways this happens under the bill.
It sets up a Medicare Commission, which would be required to propose cuts in Medicare spending unless Congress achieved the cuts another way — but one way or the other, the cuts would have to be made. Arbitrary payment cuts to doctors, home health, hospitals, and others will result in the delay and denial of care.
Another rationing tool was explained by the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 6: “Beginning in 2015, Medicare would rank doctors against their peers based on how much they cost the program — and then automatically cut payments by 5 percent to anyone who falls into the 90th percentile or above.”
So, every year, 1 in 10 physicians would be punished for ordering — in the government’s view — too many tests, treatments, or medications for their patients.
This provision applies immense pressure on physicians to provide less care, rather than provide the care that leads to the best outcomes. As the Journal notes, specialists, who make use of the more expensive procedures and technology to treat seniors and the chronically ill, would be most affected.
A third way rationing will occur is through the mandate that the government use “comparative effectiveness research” to make coverage decisions, which it will have the right to do for both government and private insurance.
Republicans on the Finance Committee tried to improve the bill. We offered proposals to drive down costs and increase access to care, such as medical liability reform, small-business health plans, and allowing people to buy health care policies across state lines. Unfortunately, our proposals were rejected largely along party lines.
Now the Baucus bill moves behind closed doors where Majority Leader Harry Reid, a select group of Senate Democrats, and White House officials will write a new bill — one that will likely include the government-run insurance plan. Unlike the process in the Finance Committee, these secret meetings will be closed to Republicans and the American public.
No one knows what will emerge from those meetings — but chances are, the bill will cede near total control to Washington and grow more costly.
The process is far from over, so Americans who oppose a government take-over of health care can still take part in the debate and convince their elected representatives they favor a different approach to health care reform. It’s crucial that they do. Congress is empowered only through the consent of the American people.
As the health care debate continues, I encourage you to continue letting your representatives know what you think about this critically important issue.
Sen. Jon Kyl is the Senate Republican Whip and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees. Visit his Web site at www.kyl.senate.gov or his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/senjonkyl.