Tuesday's election in Massachusetts sent shockwaves across Capitol Hill as voters rejected the idea that the only true course for health reform was to raise taxes, raise spending, raise premiums and put the federal government in charge of yet another unpaid-for entitlement crisis. Campaigning as the 41st vote against Obamacare and the fiscally-irresponsible policies of the Obama administration, Senator-elect Scott Brown (R-MA) seized on the frustration Americans feel toward the direction Washington is heading. But saying 'no' to Obamacare is only a first step. It's also critical that conservatives continue to offer alternative solutions to the health care and entitlement problems that our nation faces.
Make no mistake; conservatives have been offering solutions to our health care problems throughout 2009. You wouldn't think so if you listened to liberal leaders in Congress who continue to label Republicans as the "party of no" and accuse them of offering no alternatives. As Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) incorrectly stated: "The minority has offered no alternatives, just apocalyptic rhetoric." Just because liberals like Senator Levin choose to ignore conservative solutions does not confirm they don't exist.
The Patients Choice Act of 2009 (H.R. 2520 and S. 1099), offered by Congressmen Paul Ryan (R-WI), Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) would have replaced the existing patchwork system of tax breaks with a universal system of tax credits. The Improving Health Care for All Americans Act (H.R. 3218), sponsored by Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ), would have allowed Americans with employer-based coverage to keep it and would also have extended tax breaks to Americans choosing to purchase insurance on their own, or provided a voucher for those who don't pay income taxes. The Empower Patients First Act (H.R. 3400), sponsored by Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), would have reversed current tax inequality by extending tax credits and deductions to all Americans, regardless of whether they receive their insurance from their employer or purchase it individually.
This is not to say that these are the only alternatives that will work, nor does it imply that we are stuck choosing one or the other. This is to say that conservatives have been offering alternatives throughout this debate, and it is high time both sides of the aisle have a voice in reforming the health care system that affects every single living American. The Heritage Foundation has been a leading voice in the efforts to reform our health care system for decades. There are several principles that conservatives can rally around to achieve meaningful reform that doesn't break the federal government in the process:
Tax Equity: Today, if an individual purchases health insurance through their employer, they receive unlimited tax breaks on the value of their insurance. But if you purchase your insurance on your own, you receive no such benefit. This is inequitable and regressive. Ideally, Congress could replace the current tax exclusion with a system of universal tax credits. But at the very least, Congress should provide tax relief for those who purchase coverage on their own, and redirect other health care spending to help low-income individuals and families purchase private health insurance coverage.
State-Based Reform: Every state is different when it comes to health care challenges. Some states face high rates of uninsured citizens while others face spiraling costs. Instead of a federal one-size-fits-all approach, Congress should embrace federal-state partnerships that preserve diversity in the states. The states could devise their own way to achieve reform, like a mechanism for portability (i.e. take your insurance from job to job). Individuals should also have the freedom to purchase insurance from any trusted source and not be restricted by where they live (i.e. buying insurance across state lines).
Entitlement Reform: Not only are Medicare and Medicaid increasingly costly, they're not delivering value to American taxpayers. If health providers could compete directly for the business of seniors and the poor, the cost-curve would truly be bent and private innovation would flourish. Right now, the tsunami of entitlement spending is on an automatic course for disaster, with locked-in spending, and more to come. Long-term costs of entitlement programs must be built into the annual budget process so Congress can no longer ignore the crisis that is continually pushed off on future generations. Americans can no longer blindly pay into an entitlements system that offers little incentives to providers to offer better value to the consumer and the funding taxpayer.
Yesterday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) admitted that the House does not have the votes to pass the Senate version of Obamacare. Some liberals, including President Obama and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) support pulling out what they consider to be popular provisions in Obamacare and passing those separately. As the President told ABC News: "I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on." Unfortunately, this is not reform, but another rushed effort to pass bad legislation before the politics get worse for Democrats. Instead of rushing through this bill in a piecemeal fashion, it's time to start over. Starting over is not a bad thing, nor is it obstructionism. It's pure common sense. Regardless of anyone's intentions, Washington liberals cannot spin gold out of Obamacare.
As Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) said on Tuesday, “there’s going to be a tendency on the part of our people to be in denial about all this ... Whenever you have just the furthest-left elements of the [Democratic] party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country, that’s not going to work too well.” It's time for all elements in Washington to choose between giving the federal government more control and more spending obligations or to develop solutions that will transfer direct control of health care dollars and personal health care decisions back to individuals and families. Let's listen to the American public and start the conversation on true bipartisan health care reform where everyone has a voice, including taxpayers and consumers.
- Yesterday, President Obama proposed liberal bank reforms and announced his intention to fight with the recovering financial sector, and against financial profits.
- Stocks tumbled yesterday as Wall Street reacted to President Obama's bank "reform" legislation. The NYSE composite dropped 2.1% and the Dow dropped 2%. All but the S&P 500 are now down for the year.
- The Wall Street Journal reports that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is privately not supportive of President Obama's punitive bank taxes. He's concerned the "reforms" will negatively impact American banks' global competitiveness and not address the root problems of the financial crisis.
- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hammered the President's plans for the financial sector saying Obama will cause massive layoffs, unemployment and suggested Washington lawmakers' salaries also be put in escrow for a year so Americans could similarly judge their success.
- According to the Index of Economic Freedom, in the past year, the United States has suffered the largest drop in economic freedom among the world's twenty largest economies. It’s clear why our economy is failing to generate jobs. For more information, visit www.JobsandFreedom.com.