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What’s in the health-care bill for you? Have a seat over there and wait

March 25, 2010

With the president’s signature still wet on the Senate health care overhaul, people rightly ask, “what will it mean for me?” For many, the answer will likely be found in your paycheck and in the doctor’s waiting room.

As a heart surgeon, I saw a wide range of new health care mandates from Washington, all of which affected care in some way. However, all of those disruptions pale in comparison to the massive, 2,000-plus page bill approved by Democrats in the House and Senate. New taxes and arbitrary Medicare cuts to pay for a portion of the new entitlements will be felt soon by many of the same people the president claims to want to help.

Taxes on prescription drugs, medical innovation and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) take effect almost immediately. To pay for a dramatic expansion of health coverage, the Senate bill raises more than half a trillion dollars in taxes. Unfortunately, these taxes will likely be passed on to patients and consumers causing health care costs and premiums to rise [1], not fall, for those who desperately seek relief.

Medical innovation is expensive, but it often leads to lower costs for patients in the long run and saves lives. The new law taxes innovations, driving up cost and stifling ingenuity. During my time as a surgeon, I treated many patients with peptic ulcer disease. When I started, the standard practice to treat severe ulcers involved surgically removing portions of the patient’s stomach. These patients required extended hospital stays, complications were possible and surgery presented risks. Today, such invasive procedures are rarely necessary, following the approval of Cimetidine, which treats the ulcer without surgery.

In addition to patients, increased taxes will impact employers too. As employers encounter new red tape and begin paying higher premiums required by the new law, the cost of hiring new workers increases. Many of these taxes hurt job creators the most. Today, nearly one in 10 Americans who want to work are unable to find it. Hiking employment taxes discourages potential employers from expanding and creating new jobs.

Doctors also face difficult decisions. The new law forces a 21-percent cut for doctors treating Medicare patients beginning in 2011. Already many Americans in both Medicare and Medicaid have difficulty finding a doctor accepting new patients who use these government programs. Cuts to hospitals, home-care service and hospice, all begin this year under the bill and add to the problems patients face seeking a doctor according [2] to President Obama’s own Medicare actuaries.

Seniors will also see their choices limited next year due to $206 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program. Nearly one in four seniors in my home state of Louisiana, many of them with low incomes and in rural areas, currently utilize one of these plans. These seniors will have to look for more expensive supplemental plans to make up the difference when they lose their Medicare Advantage plan.

To prevent these Medicare cuts and job-killing taxes Congress should repeal the most erroneous provisions of the new health law before they take effect. Failure to do so hurts American workers and seniors who struggle already under skyrocketing health care costs. Congress could still work to solve some of the problems that drive costs higher – Americans number one priority for health reform. It requires repealing parts of the overhaul and working in a bipartisan way toward reforms lowering health costs and allowing Americans to keep coverage they currently use.

To read about Republican solutions to lower health care costs for families and small businesses, visit [3].

A new CNN poll shows [4] 59 percent of Americans already oppose the Senate health overhaul. With new taxes and Medicare cuts hitting soon, will Democrats in Washington pay attention?

Rep. Charles Boustany, M.D., is a Republican representing Louisiana’s 7th Congressional District.