Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) - The Baucus Health Care Plan is Not Reform

Posted on October 18, 2009

The health care bill that came out of the Senate Finance Committee last week does three big things. Instead of reducing costs, it drives up premiums. It increases taxes. It calls for higher Medicare cuts. That’s not health care reform. If it will lead to higher premiums, higher taxes, and Medicare cuts, then what is the goal of this exercise? The first goal should be reducing costs. It’s very likely that for millions of Americans this bill will raise premiums instead of reducing them—and 250 million Americans pay insurance premiums or have them paid by someone else. Here we are in the middle of a recession with 10 percent unemployment, and we’re talking about nearly $1 trillion in tax increases passed on to us in one way or another? And on top of that: employer mandates. If you own a small business, you’ll have to either provide insurance to your employees or pay a penalty. In addition, the governors of both parties are in near cardiac arrest over the prospect of Medicaid expansion in this bill. Fourteen million new people, low-income Americans, will be dumped into state Medicaid programs. I say “dumped” because doctors and hospitals are reimbursed so poorly for treating Medicaid patients that 40 percent of doctors won’t see them. So we’re going to say, “Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Low-Income American, welcome to the failed Medicaid program.” Not only is it not health care reform for those individuals, but the governors can't manage it—not to mention state legislators taxpayers. I have read comments from most Democratic governors and most Republican governors. Their states' budgets are in the worst shape since the 1960s. Medicaid is going up by 6 and 7 percent. They are taking money from higher education and K-12 and spending it on Medicaid, and now we are about to dump not only more low-income Americans into Medicaid; we are then going to send a part of the bill to the state governments that can barely keep up with the current program. So that means increase in your state taxes and cuts to your Medicare. So, as we look at this bill, we see higher premiums, higher taxes, Medicare cuts in return for more government—and I don’t call that health care reform. Instead, we need to reduce costs for individuals who are buying insurance and reduce the cost of our government. Rather than a comprehensive 1,000-page, trillion-dollar bill filled with surprises, we should go step by step in the right direction to reduce costs.