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Camp Opening Statement: Hearing on Health Reform in the 21st Century

April 29, 2009
(Remarks as Prepared)

Thank you for yielding, Mr. Chairman.

Before I make any opening statement I want to take a moment to recognize the Chairman’s commitment to the issue before us – health reform in the 21st century – and his receptiveness to work across party lines to find the right way to reform health care in this country.

Last week, I requested additional witnesses so that we may fully vet the complexities involved in improving both health insurance and health care.  Today, the Chairman has granted the Minority one additional witness; we have two and the Majority has four.  Mr. Chairman, I need not tell you, but there are several new members to this committee and they need to know that is not an insignificant act on your behalf.  Thank you. 

I look forward to continuing this more bipartisan approach to health care reform.  Hopefully, this will spur further bipartisan talks and negotiations.  I remain confident we can find a common solution.  Health care reform is not a partisan issue; it is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue; it is an American issue.

That is not to suggest we do not face difficult questions.  In fact, today’s hearing will explore one of the tougher challenges we face: how do we protect employer-sponsored insurance, and the access to affordable health care it provides millions of Americans.

Today we will hear directly from several employers, particularly Denny Dennis of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents hundreds of thousands of small businesses—businesses that typically employ about 5 people and collectively create 60 – 80 percent of the new jobs in America.

Of particular concern to these job-providers and creators, is a federal mandate that forces these small business to provide insurance or pay a penalty.  That tax, per Mr. Dennis’ testimony, would harm small businesses – especially those operating at the margin – and disproportionately impact low-income workers.

Others today will suggest that a government-run health plan must be a part of the solution, though such an option carries significant risks.  As Mr. Sheils of the Lewin Group will testify, their April 2009 study that found the introduction of a government-run plan that reimbursed providers at government-set Medicare rates would have significant ramifications for those who already have health insurance. One finding: almost 120 million Americans would lose their current health insurance coverage under a government-run plan. 

Inside that data, we find out that of the 120 million who lose their current coverage, 108 million are those who have employer-provided insurance.  A total of roughly 160 million Americans have health insurance through an employer, if 108 million people lose their coverage, that means 7 out of every 10 people (workers, husbands and wives, children) will lose their health insurance provided by employers due to a government-run plan. 

I think my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will agree that it is difficult enough to provide access and coverage for the 30-45 million without insurance, without having to take on the responsibility of an additional 108 million Americans with employer-sponsored insurance if a government-run plan is put into place.  Nor does an employer mandate, which trades job creation for insurance coverage, make our job any easier.

Employer provided insurance is under pressure and, in many cases, is already eroding.  This is a trend we need to reverse, not accelerate. We need to improve upon our current health care system, not end it. 

Now, I know some in the Majority have suggested Republicans are making the government-run plan a partisan issue.  This is untrue.  As I noted last week, even the White House has said that reform does not hinge on the inclusion of this provision.  Just yesterday, the Washington Post – hardly a standard-bearer for my Party – opined that, and I quote, “It is entirely possible to imagine effective health-care reform – changes that would expand coverage and help control costs – without a public option.”

The editorial went on to read, in part:

“It is difficult to imagine a truly level playing field that would simultaneously produce benefits from a government-run system…Medicare keeps costs under control in part because of its 800-pound-gorilla capacity to dictate prices – in effect, to force the private sector to subsidize it. Such power, if exercised in a public health option, eventually would produce a single-payer system; if that’s where the country wants to go, it should do so explicitly, not by default.”

Mr. Chairman, I ask that the Washington Post editorial be submitted into the record.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.