August 13, 2009

THE COST OF HEALTH CARE REFORM

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Last month, I wrote about my opposition to the proposed takeover of health care by the federal government because of the reduced quality of care it will bring. Government-run health care means that Washington politicians and bureaucrats will make important health care decisions for you and your family. It will also bring rationed care, which means you may not get the care you need or want. This week, I want to focus on the high cost of allowing the government to take over American health care.

Health care already amounts to 17 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), or one out of every six dollars spent in America. Proponents of a government takeover of health care often point out that we spend more than other countries with such a system, and they insist that the presence of a government plan in the marketplace will bend the growth curve of health care spending downward over time. The President has stated repeatedly that his plans for health care reform will not add to the deficit over the next decade. 

However, when asked recently about the proposals for a government-run system currently being considered in Congress, Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), said that these proposals actually bend the cost curve upward and significantly expand federal responsibility for health care costs. According to the CBO, these proposals would cost more than $1 trillion over the next decade, rising to more than $2 trillion over ten years after full implementation. To actually see the reduced costs that the proponents of government-run health care promise, we would have to accept the rationed and restricted care that allows countries with such a system to reduce their costs. 

These expensive proposals for a government takeover of health care could not come at a worse time. They will require large tax increases, which will further harm the already-struggling economy. Unemployment is up, tax revenues are down and the deficit is projected to reach an unprecedented $1.9 trillion, which is nearly four times the size of last year's deficit. These proposals can only make things worse: they spend far too much money, they will lead to rationed care and they will bend the cost curve of heath care spending up over time rather than down. 

The proper reform for American health care should increase quality and reduce costs. Health care reform does not have to be so expensive; there is an alternative proposal in Congress to reform America's health care system in a fiscally responsible manner. According to the CBO, S. 391, the Healthy Americans Act, would save $1.48 trillion over the next ten years, and it would also provide private, portable health coverage to all Americans. The bill focuses on prevention, wellness and disease management, all of which will help to reduce health care costs. 

While I do not agree with everything in this bill, I have co-sponsored the Healthy Americans Act because it represents a platform for Republicans and Democrats to come together to find bipartisan solutions to health care reform. To preserve and strengthen the U.S. health care system, we must promote fiscally responsible policies that offer private market choices and access to care for all Americans. We can fix American health care without spending trillions of dollars. We just have to find the right way to do it. For more on health care reform and the Healthy Americans Act, go to http://crapo.senate.gov. 

Word Count: 571