[Editor’s Note: This past week, Oswego County’s member of Congress, Bill Owens of Plattsburgh, voted against a Republican plan to repeal the health insurance reforms enacted in the prior Congressional term. In the following op/ed, he explains his position.]
By Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh)
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives voted on legislation to repeal the health care reform law in a partisan, symbolic gesture that will not advance in the Senate. I am disappointed that after ending 2010 on a high note of bipartisanship, we have so quickly reverted to the cynical tone that has plagued Washington in recent years.
As Congress considers this repeal legislation, I believe it is important to look past the rhetoric and consider the facts. According to the Congressional Budget Office, repealing the law would add $230 billion to the deficit over the next decade and increase the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million. More real-world consequences of turning back the clock on health care reform include:
• Insurers could again arbitrarily cancel coverage if you become sick, deny coverage due to a pre-existing condition, and place lifetime limits on coverage.
• Children could no longer stay on their parents’ health plan through age 26.
• The “doughnut hole” would reopen and seniors would pay more for their prescriptions, and Medicare beneficiaries would again pay out of pocket for preventive care.
• Small businesses would no longer have access to $40 billion worth of tax credits to provide coverage to their employees, which many have already taken advantage of.
• Hospitals would no longer be able to count on the newly insured to make up for the cost of uncompensated care, estimates of which range from $40 billion to $120 billion a year.
• Increased support would no longer be available for new models for providing efficient care, like Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations, which will ultimately improve quality and drive down cost.
• Funding would be rescinded for the construction of new Community Health Centers and training of more allied health professionals and primary care physicians to alleviate health care shortages in rural communities.
But it is also clear that the law is not perfect, which is why the parties should work together to continue to make changes and improvements where needed. One area on which there is near-universal agreement is repeal of a provision that requires businesses to send Form 1099s for every business-to-business transaction over $600 beginning in 2012. Although this provision is intended to capture billions in unreported revenue, like many I am concerned that it will further increase the burden of complying with the tax code for small businesses. I introduced legislation in the last Congress to repeal the 1099 requirement, and I will again work with colleagues on both sides of aisle to adjust this provision before it takes effect in 2012.
America has long been home to the most advanced life-saving techniques in the world, but what we have failed to do is make these achievements available to all Americans at a price that fits the budget of middle class families. Continuing down the path we were on before health care reform was not an option – our total health spending rose another 4% in 2009 to $2.49 trillion and premiums have been rising for years, jeopardizing employers’ ability and willingness to provide health insurance. Had we done nothing, we were on track to spend one out of every $5 we earn on health care within a decade.
As we continue to work to improve the health care system, it is critical that we rely on objective analysis that provides Congress with bipartisan options for amending the health reform law to better accomplish its two primary goals – improving care and reducing costs. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move past the rhetoric and achieve this goal in the 112th Congress.