Beware of Democratic health care ‘reform’

Health coverage today is out of reach for too many American families. Approximately 182 million Americans currently receive some form of employer-sponsored health coverage. With so many people’s health care at stake, Congress should ensure that any changes to our health care system do not jeopardize coverage for those who already have medical coverage.

If you like your coverage, you should be able to keep it — not be forced into a one-size-fits-all government program.

I am very concerned that the majority party’s “health care reform” is nothing more than a scheme to put health care choices in the hands of bureaucrats through a government-run system. Under the proposed plan, an estimated 120 million people would lose their current health insurance due to introduction of a public plan. Supporters claim this plan will compete on a level playing field with private insurance. But this is simply not true.

If the federal government goes into the business of providing health insurance, your tax dollars will pay for that plan whether you are in it or not. Such changes would disadvantage existing health plans, resulting in fewer choices for individuals, rationing of medical care and higher taxes for working Americans. While we cannot ignore the 47 million Americans without health insurance, as we work to get them coverage, our primary objective should be quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

The challenges facing current government-run health care programs, such as Medicare, should caution lawmakers. Doctors are rapidly dropping out of the Medicare program because inadequate payment rates do not accurately compensate physicians for the cost of the care they provide.

As a result, many older Nevadans have difficulty finding a primary care physician.

Seniors in rural Nevada face even greater challenges. The American College of Physicians estimates that there may be 45,000 fewer doctors than the population needs by 2025, and fewer remaining doctors will accept new Medicare patients. This failure, in turn, limits health care options for seniors.

Meanwhile, waste, fraud and abuse of Medicare funds rob taxpayers of at least $10 billion each year. Compounding the problem, the Medicare Trust Fund is slated to run out of money in less than 10 years. Instead of addressing the current flaws in Medicare, the majority party is seeking to create bigger, costlier government instead of fixing Medicare to make it solvent. Considering the existing problems with Medicare, one could expect that an even larger government-run system will be fraught with the same problems.

I am also concerned about a lack of access to care, which could be made worse by rationing of care under a government system. A little-known provision in the stimulus bill passed earlier this year included $1.1 billion to study which medical treatments a government program would and would not cover. Government-run health care programs in other countries have used these same studies to determine what ailments will be covered and which services will be rationed.

Instead of this misguided approach, every American should play an active role in improving the health care system by understanding, choosing and managing their personal health care needs. To keep costs down we need to curb frivolous lawsuits and runaway jury awards that serve only to fatten the pockets of trial lawyers. I support a system that gives Americans more health care choices, so they can pick the coverage that best meets their needs.

Moreover, we need better prevention tools and incentives to keep people healthy, instead of just reimbursing them after being treated for illness. My goal is to make health care more affordable and get every American insured.

Government spending does nothing to increase the affordability of health care. In addition, the administration’s proposal to increase taxes on homeowners to pay for this new government program will only stifle an already struggling economy.

I oppose government-run health care because it goes against what our citizens need most — more choices, better access and higher quality care.

Congress must keep these principles in mind as we try to resolve our nation’s health care problems and not place the federal government between doctors and patients.

U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, a Republican, represents Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.

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