Senator John ThuneIn the month of August, my Senate colleagues and I will return to our home states where we will have the opportunity to hear directly from our constituents about the issues facing the nation. Clearly, no issue is more in the public eye right now than health care reform, and I anticipate Senators will return to Washington in September with a great deal more insight on how their constituents view the health care debate. I know that for the past few months when I’ve been home on weekends, it is an issue I hear about frequently.
Health care reform is something that needs to be done the right way. Rushing a careless bill through Congress and signing it into law just for the sake of doing something could leave us in far worse shape in the future. The plan currently being offered by President Obama and Congressional Democrats could force millions of Americans who currently have employer-based coverage into a new health plan run by government bureaucrats. This government-run plan could undercut private insurers and force them out of business, leaving those who they insured with nowhere to turn but to the government plan.
In addition to patients losing their choice of health insurance, the cost of a new, government-run health care system is astounding. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has provided estimates that reveal that the Senate plan will cost taxpayers over $2 trillion over 10 years. That amount of money is staggering on its own, but when added to the trillions borrowed to finance the stimulus bill and the bloated budget, it is even more unacceptable because it would add to the debt that will be passed along to our children and grandchildren.
It is important for those who disagree with the President’s plan to be ready to offer constructive alternatives. Since I was elected to the Senate, I have participated in over 40 health care events across South Dakota, from hospital visits where I have met with patients and doctors, to meetings with local officials, clinics, and administrators. As a result of these experiences, I believe health care reform should put patients and doctors in charge of care, not government bureaucrats and politicians.
Effective health care reform would make it easier for small businesses to provide coverage for employees by allowing them to pool together to purchase insurance. I also support allowing small businesses and individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines, and providing states incentives to enact state-based reforms to their insurance markets. Additionally, Congress could authorize the same tax breaks for those who buy insurance on their own as those who get insurance through their employers.
Health reform is too serious of an issue for the President and Congressional Democrats to act without bipartisan consideration. The one-sided plans offered by the Democrats cost far too much and puts too much power in the hands of bureaucrats, not doctors and patients. Real reform will come from working together to lower cost and improve care through more choices and proven results, not a costly experiment.