Health care bill unworkable,
By U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski
June 27, 2009
Americans are looking to Congress and the White House to see
whether lawmakers and the president will deliver on their promises
to reform our health care system. As a member of the Senate committee
considering comprehensive health care reform legislation, I am
committed to working with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues.
However, our success will be measured by whether we craft a health
care bill that reduces costs while providing affordable, comprehensive
medical coverage that ensures continuous access to nurses, doctors,
medical health services, and does not interfere with the ability
of individuals to continue choosing the health care provider
of their choice.
As Democrats unveil reform proposals that amount to a massive
government intervention, let's recall the 1965 Medicare law that
created the first federally run insurance program for the elderly
and the disabled. At that time, we made many of the same promises
to the American people that we are making today. We pledged that
when you are no longer able to work, Medicare will take care
of you. Similarly today, we are touting a government-run health
plan, modeled on Medicare, that would provide all Americans with
guaranteed access to care and choice in providers.
In Alaska, doctors are turning away Medicare patients who are
being forced to pay out-of-pocket for medical care or forgo care
altogether. In Anchorage, where half our state's population resides,
only 13 out of 75 general practice doctors are accepting Medicare
patients. What doctors and patients in Alaska have quickly learned
is that Medicare's low reimbursement rates and bureaucratic hassles
are hurting patient choice and access to care.
Simply put, Medicare is broken and unfortunately, the problem
only seems to get worse. In fact, Medicare is quickly going bankrupt
and will actually be insolvent by 2017. Somewhat predictably,
Congress is trying to dramatically expand the soon-to-be bankrupt
Medicare program without taking steps to fix or stabilize the
underlying problems. I cannot support making a bad situation
Unfortunately, the health care reform legislation being pushed
in the Senate has not been "carefully crafted" and
we still don't know how this legislation will be paid for.
Additional questions are also begging for answers. Should the
government require all Americans to purchase health insurance
or otherwise face monetary federal tax penalties? With the downturn
in our economy, should we force employers to provide insurance
for both full-time and part-time employees? This could result
in employers lowering wages to pay for health care benefits and
hiring contract employees instead of new employees to avoid the
onerous burdens of health care costs. Will a new government-run
insurance program, modeled on the Medicare model, put more Americans
at risk of limiting access to their doctors like the Medicare
program has in Alaska?
Finally, and particularly in light of the massive debt the Federal
government continues to amass, how much will this reform cost
and can we afford the price tag? The United States is already
facing a deficit of $1.8 trillion for this year alone. We don't
buy a car or purchase a home before we know the price and whether
or not we can afford it. Preliminary estimates project the cost
of the pending health care reform plan well in excess of $1 trillion.
Shouldn't we explain to Americans how we intend to pay for this?
The stakes are simply too high to rush a bill through Congress,
particularly if the result is to expand a severely broken Medicare
program and drive the nation trillions of dollars further into
debt. The 'reform' currently being touted by the White House
and congressional Democrats would deny millions of Americans
their choice of a doctor and leave crucial health care decisions
in the hands of government bureaucrats. This is not the kind
of health care reform I would support nor is it a plan the nation
About: U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski
R-Alaska, is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor
and Pensions Committee, one of the key panels handling health
care reform legislation.
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