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The illusion of a plan: Health-care bill could hit small businesses pretty hard

Posted: Monday, July 27, 2009

According to a 2006 study by the Frasier Institute on the state of medical care in Canada, the total wait time for care averages 18 weeks. Patients referred to a neurosurgeon wait, on average, 21 weeks for an appointment, followed up by another average wait of almost 11 weeks to receive care.

This system, which proponents of a nationalized health system believe ours should be modeled after, is essentially killing its patients. It seems to be based on the mantra "insurance for all, care for none."

The president's proposed program will create a public option that functions similarly to the current Medicare program, and for us Alaskans, that spells disaster.

As it stands today, most doctors are not taking new Medicare patients in Anchorage because even though we have a standardized reimbursement rate, the cost of practicing medicine is higher in this state than the Lower 48. Doctors are finding that taking on too many Medicare patients will bankrupt their practices. Implementing a public option modeled on Medicare will actually decrease Alaskans' access to health care.

Additionally, the Medicare system costs more money than it takes in each year, and this disparity is set to increase under the proposed health-care reform. In fact, the Medicare program is still set to go bankrupt in 2017, even with the supposed savings achieved by cutting reimbursement rates for some health-care providers.

H.R. 3200, the mainframe for the health-care bill, creates 53 new government boards, bureaucracies, commissions and programs and adds $1.2 trillion in new federal spending over the next 10 years. Nearly 5 million jobs could be lost as a result of increased taxes with small businesses being particularly hit hard.

Unemployment is already at 9.5 percent; how much higher will it go when small businesses are forced to choose between paying new government fines and keeping an employee on the payroll? This legislation misses the mark completely.

Unfortunately, passing these bills would be nothing more than putting a political band-aid on a very deep wound. Any decent health-care bill needs to focus on accessibility, portability, and affordability; the proposal put forth by the administration does none of these.

So what is the answer? We need to start by lowering the cost of health care. We also need to address the price of prescription drugs, and we need tort reform.

We can begin by promoting health and wellness in businesses and practicing preventative measures. We can grant small businesses and the self-employed the same tax incentives that large corporations receive for purchasing insurance for employees. We need to reform malpractice lawsuits by providing protections and stabilize compensation. And we need to protect the doctor-patient relationship and not allow the government to ration health care and decide coverage decisions about what treatments may be offered to patients based on cost and their age.

I am the cosponsor of two sensible and comprehensive health-care bills in Congress right now, H.R. 3218, the Improving Health Care For All Americans Act and H.R. 2516, the Medical Rights Act of 2009. Together, these bills would achieve real health-care reform, as well as improve the Medicare reimbursement system, allow low-income families to purchase health insurance with advanced tax credits and create larger risk pools to help those who are sick qualify for insurance.

The need for health-care reform is real. However, this issue requires more time than this Congress is allowing it. Americans deserve a comprehensive health plan with access to doctors and quality treatment, not just the illusion of one.

Don Young, a Republican, is the Alaska representative in the U.S. Congress.



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