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USA TODAY: Repeal is first, not last, step

January 20, 2011

Wednesday’s vote to repeal the unpopular health care law was, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the end of the beginning of our push to make quality health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. Full repeal of the Democrats’ partisan health care law is critical to advancing fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually lower health care costs.

Repeal serves two purposes. First, it is crucial to getting our economy on a path toward job creation. Each day we learn of another premium hike brought on by the health care law’s onerous new mandates. New taxes and penalties are having a chilling effect on American businesses. Those new taxes, fees and mandates increase the uncertainty among employers who worry about what edict will come down next from Washington. Employers cannot and are not creating jobs in this environment.

Second, this effort allows us to take steps to truly deal with cost. Whatever else may be said of it, the new law has clearly failed to address the ever-rising cost of care and coverage. In many cases, the law is actually responsible, at least in part, for the increases. Many employers are facing higher costs, individuals are being notified of double-digit premium increases and state governments are expressing concerns about the impact that reform will have on state budgets.

How to fix the system

At its core, America’s health care problem is an affordability problem. The goal of slowing the explosive cost of health care transcends party lines.

Many cost drivers are already widely understood. Individuals and small businesses are constrained by mandates that vary by state and result in higher costs and less flexibility. Physicians are forced to practice costly defensive medicine because of a tort system run amok. And dependence on publicly subsidized entitlement programs — expanded and solidified through the new health care law — is stretching state budgets to the breaking point.

Americans want a step-by-step, common-sense approach to health care reform, not a $2.6 trillion, 2,000-page government takeover of our nation’s health care system.

In the last Congress, Republicans advocated solutions that were focused on lowering health insurance premiums for families and small businesses, increasing access to affordable care regardless of pre-existing health conditions, curbing lawsuit abuse and promoting healthier lifestyles — without increasing taxes.

There was no shortage of solutions offered by our party when Congress last debated these issues. We proposed flexibility for individuals to purchase insurance across state lines and freedom for small business to band together and increase their purchasing power. We called for curbs on lawsuit abuse that would not only lower health care costs but would also save taxpayers an estimated $54 billion over the next decade. We advocated flexibility for individuals to save for and manage a greater share of their health spending, as well as freedom for governors in administering programs for the disadvantaged. In this Congress, we will renew and expand on these efforts to lower health care costs for individuals, families and employers.

Three paths forward

As we move beyond Wednesday’s vote, we will proceed along three parallel paths: We will continue to go after the worst provisions of the law piece by piece; we will exercise rigorous oversight of the law as it stands; and we will examine sound alternatives. Throughout this process, we pledge to pursue health care reform through the transparent, inclusive and deliberative process our members and the American people were denied two years ago.

We will hold hearings in Washington and around the country. We will invite affected individuals and job creators to share their stories and solutions. We will look to the Constitution and common sense to guide legislation.

Replacing this law is a policy and a moral imperative. We reject the premise that the only way to improve access to quality coverage is to dramatically expand the federal government’s reach into our lives. On the contrary, we are dedicated to solving the underlying problems in health care by prioritizing affordability, improving transparency, and creating a true, functioning marketplace for health insurance.

The committees we lead will tackle these challenges with the seriousness and steadfastness of purpose they deserve. We will pursue changes on which there is widespread agreement as we seek to meet the monumental challenges of a nation on an unsustainable fiscal trajectory. We will look to governors to explore how greater flexibility would empower them to hold down costs and pursue innovative strategies for delivering care. Above all, we will listen to the American people and fix what’s broken with health care, without breaking what’s working.

Repeal is the first, not the last step. Compassionate, innovative and job-creating health care reform is what’s next.

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., is chairman of Education and the Workforce; Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is chairman of Budget; Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is chairman of Judiciary; and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., is chairman of Energy and Commerce.