LIPINSKI CALLS FOR CONGRESS TO SHIFT FOCUS TO JOB CREATION, MOVE INCREMENTALLY ON HEALTH CARE REFORM
January 22, 2009
Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) released the following statement:
“I have stated that I cannot vote for the Senate health care bill. Now it appears clear that neither the House nor the Senate bills, or any health care bill of similar magnitude, will be passed this year. Therefore, Democratic leaders should turn the primary focus of Congress to job creation – as I have been calling for over the last year – while continuing to work on passing components of health care reform that will begin fixing the system so that it works better for all Americans.
“I have long recognized the need to reform our health care system. The first bill I introduced in Congress was to require transparency in pricing by hospitals to help drive down health care costs. Skyrocketing health care costs threaten the budgets of individuals, families, businesses, and the government, and the current economic climate has only increased this impact. This is even more true for those with health conditions that are costly to treat. For most in the middle class, rising costs mean more struggles to make ends meet, but for some, rising costs mean they cannot afford any coverage and face disastrous financial consequences.
“Last year, I set out my goals for comprehensive health care reform: lowering overall health care costs and making health insurance coverage more affordable and accessible, without compromising the quality of care or adding to the swollen deficits of our country or our state. When H.R. 3200 was introduced in the House last summer, I said that it had significant flaws, including the facts that it cost too much, added to the deficit, included federal funding for abortion, did not do enough to reform our delivery system, and did not do enough to lower health care costs. For months, I fought for changes to the bill, and when H.R. 3962 was introduced in October, it was a better bill – although still flawed. I fought Speaker Pelosi and other Democratic leaders on the abortion funding issue, and was one of the authors of the Stupak amendment, which eliminated abortion funding from the bill. I would not have voted for any bill that changed the long-established policy of not providing taxpayer funds for abortion.
“When H.R. 3962 came to the floor, I decided to vote for it, saying:
‘Today’s vote is only one step in the legislative process, and I will continue to work to improve the measure. If this bill does not improve when it comes back from the Senate, I will vote against it.’
“Unfortunately, the Senate did not pass better legislation. In fact, in some cases the Senate bill was worse than the House bill. It not only provides taxpayer money for the purchase of insurance that covers abortion, in direct contradiction of the long-established Hyde Amendment, it also allows taxpayer money to pay directly for abortion in federal community health centers funded in the bill. The Senate bill includes questionable funding sources such as an excessive excise tax on insurance plans. The bill was also tarnished by backroom deals with drug companies, hospitals, doctors, and others, in addition to providing special treatment for certain states. For all of these reasons and more, I could not vote for the Senate bill.
“Finally, the proposed cuts to Medicare worried me, because while I know that there is waste to cut in Medicare, I was not confident that these cuts would not impact the quality of care being received by seniors. Over the past two months, the Chief Actuary of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Congressional Budget Office confirmed that my concerns about the Medicare cuts impacting care for seniors were valid. I would not vote for a bill that could reduce the care that seniors receive.
“The pathway forward on health care reform is best charted by focusing on the components that are widely supported, and most directly address the primary challenges of affordability, quality, and access to coverage. We must get the skyrocketing cost of health care under control, especially by changing the incentives that drive providers to more spending instead of better health outcomes. We should work on ways to facilitate affordable insurance coverage for those who are sick or have chronic medical conditions. We should work to make sure that medical bills do not cause Americans to go bankrupt. We should increase the transparency of health care costs charged by hospitals, doctors, and other providers, and make available information on health care quality, so that people can be better-informed consumers in the health care system and drive down costs. We need to close the Medicare donut hole and reduce prescription drug costs for seniors, and assure seniors that we will not cut their Medicare benefits or take away access to their doctors. Competition can drive down insurance costs, and we must increase competition among health insurance companies, starting by eliminating their federal anti-trust protection. We should also reform health insurance to improve the way beneficiaries are treated. And we can work to expand coverage to those who cannot afford health insurance.
“In regard to specific legislation, I will continue to promote health care reform bills that I introduced last year. In addition to the Hospital Price Transparency and Disclosure Act (H.R. 2566), I also introduced legislation that would impact the tax breaks enjoyed by drug and insurance companies. H.R. 2917 would end the tax deduction that drug companies can claim for their advertising and promotional expenses, reducing a more than $4 billion drain on the Treasury and lessening the undue influence that drug ads and giveaways to doctors have on medical decisions. H.R. 3205, the Health Insurance Company Advertising Deduction Denial Act of 2009, would deny the tax break for advertising by health insurance companies. I will also continue my support for bills I have cosponsored such as H.R. 684, the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act, and H.R. 3596, the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009.
“If we proceed incrementally, we have the opportunity to develop sound policy that people can better understand, and take important steps to improve our nation’s health care system. Congress must step back, reassess goals, and proceed in a more measured and transparent manner.”
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