Senator John ThuneThe debate over how to enact needed reform for our nation’s health care system has been the subject of much attention around the country for months. Members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate have offered various health care reform bills, and numerous proposals have been analyzed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which evaluates the costs of legislation. Unfortunately, the bill that was crafted by Senate Democrats behind closed doors fails to address the major problems with our health care system today while also costing $2.5 trillion over the first 10 years of full implementation.
During last year’s campaign, President Obama repeatedly told the American people that his health reform plan would not raise taxes on the middle class. The current Democrat plan, however, would increase the tax burden for 43 percent of middle class tax filers, according to a study by the Joint Committee on Taxation. In addition to higher taxes, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 90 percent of Americans with employer-based coverage or individually purchased coverage can expect to see the cost of their premiums continue to rise at double the rate of inflation, or five to six percent per year.
The current Senate proposal would also have a negative impact on small businesses, which are the economic engines of our economy. The increased premiums for health insurance will restrict the benefits that small businesses can offer employees. Higher taxes on small businesses will also limit the possibility of job growth. At a time when people across South Dakota are struggling to find work or fear losing their jobs, this bill sends the wrong message.
Another significant component of the current legislation is the slashing of the Medicare Advantage program. Nearly one-fourth of the 11 million Medicare beneficiaries nationwide participate in Medicare Advantage, including 8,900 South Dakota seniors. Cuts to this program represent a limitation of the benefits available to seniors, even after the years these South Dakotans spent paying into Medicare. Those seniors who would see their benefits cut can rightly question the commitment from Democrats in Congress and the President that everyone would be able to keep the insurance they have.
On top of all of these problems, the current Senate bill also seeks to raise taxes starting in January of 2010, but benefits would not kick in until 2014. Imposing taxes four years before benefits kick in is nothing more than an attempt by my Democrat colleagues to hide the true cost of the bill.
There are very few people in this country who do not recognize that our health care system is in serious need of reform. Real reform would be a plan that lowers the cost of health insurance, making it more accessible to everyone, without raising taxes or cutting benefits. Unfortunately, the current Senate plan does not accomplish any of these ends.