Rep. Joe Barton (TX), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released a telling statement today regarding the committee's mark up of the Democrats' proposed health care bill:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The president and many others on your side of the aisle say that we must rush through health reform because it is the key to economic recovery.
I fail to see how a massive government takeover of our health care system and the creation of scores of new bureaucracies will revitalize anything or anybody except the governing class in Washington, D.C.
I don’t believe I am exaggerating even a little. Let me just name a few of the new entities and processes that would be established by this bill:
· The Health Choices Administration, which is headed by a new commissioner;
· The Health Insurance Exchange;
· The Health Insurance Exchange Trust Fund;
· The Government Health Plan, which undoubtedly will have an administrator plus hundreds or thousands of government employees to run it;
· The Bureau of Health Information;
· The Health Benefits Advisory Committee;
· The Center for Quality Improvement, which will set national priorities for quality improvement;
· The Comparative Effectiveness Research Commission;
· The Comparative Effectiveness Research Trust Fund;
· And the Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research.
And this does not include all the helpful and consumer friendly new bureaucratic processes that go along with the creation of all these new entities.
It seems to me that if you like the convenient hours and smiling service you get at the driver’s license office or the post office, you’re going to love going to the government when you get sick.
A big attraction is that so much of this will be free. Except when somebody has to pay for it. To get the money for free health care, the bill places enormous new costs and burdens on employers and a surtax on the income earned by the thousands and thousands of small businesses that file as individuals.
Some people say this looks like Karl Marx’s kind of plan for economic recovery. I think they’re picking on the wrong Marx, however. Karl wouldn’t suggest this, but Groucho might.
The current system works for the vast majority of the people. If you don’t believe me listen to the rhetoric of the majority. The first words out of their mouths anytime they talk about health care is, quote, if you like what you have then you can keep it. In my town hall meetings, people tell me they do like what they have and they do want to keep it and they especially want us to make sure they can keep it. We should not tear down everything that works; instead we should fix the areas that don’t, like like containing health care costs so American families do not have to worry about affording health insurance next year. We must implement policies to ensure that every American regardless of pre-exiting conditions or high health costs can find affordable health care coverage. This bill is not the way.
I have heard repeatedly from Democrats over the last six months that they learned their lesson from Clinton Care. I had hoped this meant they would resist an invasive, bureaucrat-empowering government takeover of health care and instead focus on real solutions to make coverage affordable to working families. Today it looks like the only lesson they learned was that, if the American people know what is in the Democrats’ health care bill, they probably won’t like it. So the practical application of the lessons learned is this: Write it in private, withhold it until the last moment, then rush it through before people know too much.
I ask the chairman why the majority is afraid to have a real debate about this bill. They decide to release a bill that is over 1,000 pages long on Tuesday and start a mark-up on Thursday.
There will be claims that we had a legislative hearing on the bill three weeks ago and that should be enough for the world to understand the ramifications. However, it should be noted for the record that we were told that it would be unfair for witnesses that day to actually comment on the bill because we could not expect them to know what is in it.
Yesterday, we had a meeting with the Congressional Budget Office that was closed to the public and to the press. What we found out was that the CBO had been asked to provide a cost estimate based on conversations with the Democratic staff. So the Congress’ own budget expert is doing its analysis of the most sweeping social program of the century based on phone calls.
For the public who was not allowed in the briefing, what we found out was the CBO was not given time to understand what was in the actual bill and that we are now going forward without an understanding of how much it costs.
Here’s what we think is happening: The president and the speaker have concocted government-run health care. They’ve built it in secret and wrapped it in their party’s compelling political rhetoric. It will cost Americans north of $1 trillion. And it still won’t cover 17 million people.
I can’t tell you the intersection of authority between the Secretary of HHS, Czar of the new Making the Health Choices for Americans Administration, the Secretary of the Treasury, or the Secretary of Labor, but I doubt any member of this panel can. I can tell you the numerous new mandates, requirements, and penalties imposed by the new mighty Health Czar will raise the cost of insurance and could cause over 100 million people to lose their employer insurance that they like. That runs counter to the promise of the Democrats that if you like what you have then you can keep it.
I know the new employment tax in the bill will kill job creation at a time our country can not afford. The economic model of the President’s chief economic adviser estimates that it could cost the economy over four and half million jobs. The bill will also depress wages, which CBO all but admitted yesterday. That is not good for consumer confidence in the time of a recession.
Finally, I know what is not in this bill. There is nothing in this bill that actually attempts to reduce the growth of health care spending. Entitlement spending in Medicare and Medicaid is growing at unsustainable rates. This endangers not only the long term economic prosperity of the country but the very foundations of these programs. Health reform can’t be about just spending money, it has to be about reforming our health care system to make it more efficient and more affordable for individuals and this country.
I hope that that the chairman will talk with the speaker and the president and explain to them that is possible to enact comprehensive health care reform that doesn’t choke off economic recovery and won’t force you to see a bureaucrat before you can see a doctor. They can do it in public and they can take all the credit. I’ll vote for it and urge every Republican to do so, too.