Congress doesn’t often get a second chance to do the right thing. But when it comes to health care, the U.S. Supreme Court may provide lawmakers a historic opportunity to do just that.
The high court will render its decision on the constitutionality of Obamacare by the end of the month. If the justices strike it down, Congress will have an opening to do what President Obama and the then-Democratic majority failed to do – listen to the American people.
Traveling around my district in Southwest Michigan and in my work in Washington as chairman of one of the committees with jurisdiction over the new law, I know Americans have a lot to say about health care.
Here’s what I’m hearing.
For starters, Congress should begin with a clean slate. That means repeal the law in its entirety, even if the Court holds only pieces unconstitutional. Obamacare spins an intricate web. Price-controlled individual coverage, including coverage of preexisting conditions, was based on forcing everyone to have insurance. How the mandated coverage edict works without the other dictates raises a host of significant problems that will increase premiums for many.
Citizens also worry the new law busts the budget. And they’re right. After three years of annual deficits over a trillion dollars, we cannot afford the costly expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a new entitlement to federal subsidies. These new spending initiatives – not scheduled to take effect until 2014 – would cost about $2.1 trillion over the next decade according to the Congressional Budget Office. Many believe the new law will just add to our growing pile of debt. It’s also making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers, compounding the economic pain.
Prior to passage of Obamacare, Americans spoke out against the individual mandate; they didn’t want to change the health care they had; they didn’t want a 3,000-page bill that empowered 15 Washington bureaucrats to decide the future of the doctor-patient relationship. And they didn’t want legislation produced by backroom deals with special interests.
They wanted lower costs; they desired an open, transparent process. And they expected President Obama to follow his pledge to rise above partisan politics, not ram through a bill with only Democratic votes.
Bottom line: Obamacare is a lot of what Americans didn’t want at the expense of what they did. Neither President Obama nor the Democrats in Congress listened to the people’s voices. And as a result, a lot of people are now angry and even more distrustful of Washington.
Health care in America does indeed face a host of problems. People are concerned that Medicare – a sacred promise we made to seniors – is going broke. They want us to strengthen the program for current and future elderly Americans to provide the quality health care choices they deserve.
Voters also tell me Medicaid should be a strong safety net for the most needy, not a separate system for a perpetual underclass. They want compassion and quality care for our nation’s poor and disabled, along with a serious effort to allow those who are capable to choose other options then Medicaid. That means more access to private individual or employer-based insurance instead of locking more and more Americans into an ever-growing, second-class system of government dependency.
Americans want and deserve a broad array of health insurance choices so they can identify those that best fit their own individual or family needs. These choices expand when we allow free enterprise to foster innovation, not smother it with taxes and one-size fits all ideology dictated by the federal government.
I’m always reminded that our pharmaceutical companies, medical device makers, hospitals and health care practitioners create jobs and opportunities, not only health care services. Yet Obamacare saddled these sectors with higher taxes and overregulation, which will drive these companies overseas or to lay off workers. We should create an environment for innovators and job creators to flourish, not view them as a piggybank to grow an ever-expanding federal government.
Finally, my constituents and health care experts often tell me we can address reform in a step-by-step manner. Obamacare tried to do too much – attempting to solve all of these problems with one massive new law. But it only created a tangle of regulations, job-killing taxes and red tape. It enlarged the power of Washington more than it improved health care. It also intentionally failed to address Americans’ primary concern with our health care system – the rising cost of health care.
The American people sensed President Obama and the Democrats were moving in the wrong direction in 2009 and 2010 and they tried to speak out. But their voices fell on deaf ears.
Obamacare represents a shocking display of political arrogance. It’s about time Washington started listening to Americans’ common sense voices. That’s exactly what we intend to do.
Congressman Fred Upton has represented the commonsense values of southwest Michigan since 1987. In 2010, Fred was selected by his House colleagues to serve as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over matters concerning energy, healthcare, the environment, telecommunications, commerce, manufacturing, and trade, as well as oversight and investigations.