The Hill: Op-ed by Sen. Alexander: “We Need to Start Over on Health Care”

Posted on July 13, 2009

Americans need health care reform this year. Republicans believe we must have a health care plan that you can afford and that your government can afford, so your children do not get a big debt piled on top of them.  We must make sure everyone is covered.  And we must make sure that Washington does not come in between you and your doctor.

Right now, the Senate committee that works on health policy is considering a partial bill (some expensive pieces are still missing) written by Senator Kennedy.  The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has said that in the first 10 years of the incomplete Kennedy bill, it would add over $1 trillion to the debt, if you factor in the expansion of Medicaid (which Democrats are considering as part of their overall plan).  Senator Gregg of New Hampshire, who is the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, has pointed out that once the health care program envisioned in the Kennedy bill is up and going, it would add $2.3 trillion to the national debt over a 10-year period.

People across this country are saying, “Whoa. Wait a minute. This is getting out of control. We need some limits. We know you print money there in Washington, DC, but our children and grandchildren and even we are going to pay the consequences if we do not have some limits on the amount of debt.”

It seems like the president would say to the senators who are working on this: “Wait a minute, senators.  This needs to be something that pays for itself. We cannot add $2.3 trillion to the debt.”

We know that there has been a lot of hard work done on the Kennedy bill, but we need to stop and start over even to get close to the president's own objectives.

Republicans suggest that when we in the Senate start over, we do it in a bipartisan way, and that we include some suggestions from the Republican side, which has not been done at all.  The president has said he wanted a bipartisan bill, but we have had a completely partisan bill in the Senate, and that’s not the way things should work in Washington.  Republicans are in Washington to be a part of solving this big problem, but we have put our ideas on the table and they are not being considered.  The Democrats who are in charge are being polite in what they say, but their thinking is still, “We have the votes. We won the election. We will write the bill.”

As long as that’s the case, America will not be better off, and the president's goals will not be met.  The Kennedy bill being considering now will add more than $2 trillion to the federal debt, have a big new tax for states, stuff low-income people into government programs, and still leave 30 million people uninsured.

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