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Opening Statement of Ranking Member Dave Camp: Hearing on Health Reform in the 21st Century: Proposals to Reform the Health System

June 24, 2009

Mr. Chairman, I am not sure what to focus on this morning: all that we do know about this bill or all that we don’t know about it.  Both are fairly disturbing.


Let me begin with what we don’t know: how much CBO says it will cost or how you will pay for it.  Hopefully, everyone can see page 162 of the bill on the TV screens.  Now, I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but I expect this picture is worth well over one trillion dollars. 


Mr. Chairman, your bill says these “other revenue raisers” are “to be provided.”  When will these tax increases be provided?  When will the American public get to know how much this trip to the “doctor” will cost them?  Those details are not unimportant. 


If you are shopping for a car, even I have to admit that a Ferrari looks pretty good next to a Ford – until you see the price tag.  A six bedroom oceanfront mansion looks good next to a modest 3-bedroom ranch – until you see the price tag. 


We need to know the price tag of this bill if we are to do our jobs: write a bill our country can afford that will guarantee every American has access to affordable, quality health care.


Just this morning I received an independent, non-partisan analysis of your bill.  I know I said this picture was worth well over a trillion dollars, and this report makes it clear that I have no future in appraising art – it is actually worth $3.5 trillion. Let me repeat that for everyone here, especially the Members who have not been given any information on cost: an independent, non-partisan analysis says this bill costs $3.5 trillion dollars.


I ask that a copy of this report by HIS Network be included in the record.


That is a staggering figure, even in Washington.  Equally staggering are some of the ideas we have heard floating around to pay for this bill, such as:


  • New taxes on employer-sponsored health benefits.
  • New taxes on sugared soft drinks.  
  • Additional taxes on alcohol that will turn Joe Six-Pack into Joe Four-Pack.
  • A new national sales tax.   
  • New taxes on American businesses competing worldwide. 
  • Higher Medicare taxes.

Those are pretty darn scary in and of themselves, but what has me in shock is the fact that those taxes won’t even come close to covering $3.5 trillion in new federal government spending.


It is clear that if you move forward with this $3.5 trillion bill and with any of those taxes, whatever hope remained that the President would keep his word to not tax families earning less than $250,000 will be quickly erased.


The President has also promised – repeatedly – that Americans who have and like their insurance will be able to keep it.  Now, I know he is getting pressured to back off that statement.  I had hoped both Republicans and Democrats on this committee would help him keep that pledge, but the analysis we received this morning says your bill would cause 64 million Americans to lose their current coverage.  64 million!  That means one out of every three Americans under the age of 65 would lose their current, private health care coverage.  We need to strengthen and improve our health care system, not destroy it.


No matter what comes out of this hearing, unanswered will be several critical questions: How much will you tax and who will pay these “other revenues?” What will be the impact on family budgets?  What will be the impact on employers and employees and on those looking for work?  What about the economy as a whole? 


I am disappointed that information isn’t before us, since it is impossible to make a thorough evaluation of the bill without it.


Now, to what we do know:


It creates a government-run plan that reimburses at Medicare rates, which will force millions of Americans to lose their current health care plan.


There are absolutely no prohibitions on the new government-run plan or government programs like Medicare or Medicaid from using cost-effectiveness research to impose delays to or denials of access to life-saving treatments for patients.


And, just the new taxes and penalties on employers that we have already seen will force 4.7 million to lose their job.  Those aren’t my numbers or my analysis.  That is what you get when you plug the taxes associated with an employer mandate into the economic models developed by Dr. Christina Romer, the Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and Jared Bernstein, who is in the Office of the Vice President.


What does this leave us with?  In short, a bill in which the solution costs more than the problem, and “health care reform” in which millions of Americans lose their insurance, lose access to treatments and maybe even their job.


Mr. Chairman, this is what happens when legislation of this nature is written in secret, behind closed doors and without the input of Member on both sides of the aisle, not to mention the families and businesses it will affect. 


I have heard your own Committee members have raised their concerns about the way in which this bill was written, so have Blue Dogs in a written letter, and so have House Republicans.  This painfully reminds me of the stimulus bill, but as important as it was, we were just talking about money.  This time, we are talking about people’s health, about their lives.  We cannot get it wrong again.


The President was right when he said health care reform should not be a Democrat issue or a Republican issue, but an American issue.


As you know, last week Republicans outlined a summary of what we believe successful health care reform should focus on – affordability, accessibility and availability of quality health care for all Americans.  You’ll notice there are a number of areas where we could reach a bipartisan agreement.  I and the Republican Members of this Committee stand ready to meet and work with you to get this bill right.  I hope we can do that soon.


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