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Beware of Democratic health care ‘reform’

June 21, 2009

Health coverage today is out of reach for too many Americanfamilies. Approximately 182 million Americans currently receive some form ofemployer-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 jeopardizecoverage 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 “healthcare reform” is nothing more than a scheme to put health care choices inthe hands of bureaucrats through a government-run system. Under the proposedplan, an estimated 120 million people would lose their current health insurancedue to introduction of a public plan. Supporters claim this plan will competeon a level playing field with private insurance. But this is simply not true. 

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

The challenges facing current government-run health careprograms, such as Medicare, should caution lawmakers. Doctors are rapidlydropping out of the Medicare program because inadequate payment rates do notaccurately compensate physicians for the cost of the care they provide. 

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

Seniors in rural Nevada face even greater challenges. TheAmerican College of Physicians estimates that there may be 45,000 fewer doctorsthan the population needs by 2025, and fewer remaining doctors will accept newMedicare patients. This failure, in turn, limits health care options forseniors.


Meanwhile, waste, fraud and abuse of Medicare funds robtaxpayers of at least $10 billion each year. Compounding the problem, theMedicare 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 isseeking to create bigger, costlier government instead of fixing Medicare tomake it solvent. Considering the existing problems with Medicare, one couldexpect that an even larger government-run system will be fraught with the sameproblems. 

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

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

Moreover, we need better prevention tools and incentives tokeep people healthy, instead of just reimbursing them after being treated forillness. My goal is to make health care more affordable and get every Americaninsured. 

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

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

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

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