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Just Do It

“Never trouble another for what you can do for yourself.”

Thomas Jefferson

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Dear Mr. Hunt:

Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about health care reform. It is good to hear from you.

After several weeks of backroom deal-making, partisan arm-twisting and special carve-outs for wavering senators, the Senate voted on party lines 60-39 to pass health care reform legislation.

I voted against it, due to both the content of the bill and the way it was kept secret from many senators and from the American people. Our health care system needs reforming, but this is not the way to revamp a sector that represents 17 percent of America’s economy.

I also voted against cloture, because I believed the Senate should continue to debate a bill that would, among other bad choices, cost $2.5 trillion when fully implemented over 10 years, increase taxes by $494 billion, cut Medicare by $465 billion, and would not bend the federal cost curve down.

The Senate is following the House of Representatives, which recently passed its own version of a health care bill, H.R. 3962, the “Affordable Health Care for America Act,” by a narrow partisan margin. The two partisan bills are on track to be reconciled into one piece of legislation.

Aside from the bill’s budget-busting cost, seniors and taxpayers would be faced with many undue burdens. By paying for these new provisions by cutting Medicare, a program that is already in danger of becoming insolvent, many Americans my age will see their benefits and access to care severely diminished in order to establish new entitlement programs. Congress cannot continue ransacking Medicare funds to implement new government entitlement programs.

I also oppose a mandate on small businesses to cover the costs of their employees. The health care industry itself will also feel more than $100 billion in taxes and fees, which will be shifted directly to the American people in the form of higher premiums. Also, during an economic downturn, individuals would be taxed a total of $8 billion for not purchasing insurance the government deems appropriate. The Senate bill does not contain a public option, which I oppose.

The number of uninsured Americans continues to rise, along with the premiums and out-of-pocket expenses incurred by insured consumers. We in Congress need to address this problem by searching for effective ways to expand access to adequate, affordable medical care for all Americans in a fiscally responsible manner, not by expanding government, slashing Medicare and trading votes for sweetheart deals for Nebraska, Florida and Vermont.

The Senate has moved too quickly with radical proposals that may not achieve their worthy objectives. This rush to legislative passage will limit Americans’ access to health care and lower quality while increasing taxes and the nation’s debt. Instead of ramming through legislation – largely kept secret until this week – to overhaul our entire health care system, we should be focused on incremental reform to improve the areas of greatest need.

As I mentioned above, America is in need of health care reform. That’s why I am an original cosponsor of S. 1099, the “Patients’ Choice Act,” which was introduced on May 20, 2009, and was referred to the Committee on Finance.

That legislation would make health care coverage accessible and affordable for all Americans through private insurance coverage while promoting prevention and wellness which can improve lives and lower medical costs. It would also put Americans in charge of their own health care by giving them a tax rebate of $2,300 for individuals and $5,700 for families to buy health insurance. It would allow patients to comparison shop for health care the same way they do for other products and services, and would allow them to keep their coverage if they changed jobs. Individuals with preexisting conditions could not be turned down or denied coverage.

To be effective, any health care bill must also address tort reform, which the Senate bill does not. I am an original cosponsor of S. 2662, the “Fair Resolution of Medical Liability Disputes Act of 2009,” which would create a system of preliminary non-binding arbitration for medical malpractice claims. If one or both parties involved reject the arbitrator’s decision, they can take the claim to court, but the losing party would have to pay the winning party’s legal fees.

Americans are right to demand access to affordable health care. But the Senate bill is bad legislation. It is a political victory – not a substantive one – that will actually make health care more expensive.

On February 26, 2010, Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate leadership met to discuss health care costs, insurance reform, deficit reduction, and health insurance coverage. Republicans continued to press Democrats to take a step-by-step approach to solving health care issues rather than continuing forward with a massive bill filled with tax increases, Medicare cuts, and increased premiums. Democrats refused to divulge whether the reconciliation procedure would be used to pass certain measures. I will continue to oppose a bill that significantly raises taxes, cuts benefits for seniors, adds to the federal deficit and allows the government to make decisions that should be between a patient and his or her doctor.

If you would like to receive timely e-mail alerts regarding the latest congressional actions and my weekly e-newsletter, please sign up via my Web site at: www.chambliss.senate.gov. Please let me know whenever I may be of assistance.

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Lost Liberty

“I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office. ”

Andrew Jackson