Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Government puts itself, not patients, in control of care
By Paul Ryan
Congress is moving fast to rush through a health care overhaul that lacks a key ingredient: the full participation of you, the American people. There has been much fanfare about the need for reform, and Wisconsin even hosted the president for a rally in Green Bay to highlight the need to get a grip on skyrocketing costs, expand access and preserve and promote what works.
I applaud these efforts - and have proposed legislation to achieve these shared goals.
The question is not whether health care in America needs to be reformed; the question centers on how we achieve our shared reform goals. More critically: Who should be at the center of health care in America?
Right now, the nucleus of power lies with third parties - insurers, employers and bureaucratic administrators. As we move forward with reform, should we shift the decision-making power to the federal government, or should we look to empower the patient and the doctor?
Real reform requires a sincere, open discussion of these important questions. Washington has failed in this respect - framing the debate as whether or not we're happy with the status quo. Congress and the White House have focused their public efforts on platitudes and press conferences, while the substance and the details have remained behind closed doors. It might surprise folks to learn that an actual legislative proposal was not released by the majority until this past Tuesday.
Before members even had time to read the 1,000-page bill, it already has cleared two major House committees and is set to be fast-tracked through Congress in the days and weeks ahead. Those members of Congress who voted for this bill already in their committees did so without knowing what the legislation costs. Before it's too late, let's take a closer look.
At the center of this legislation (H.R. 3200) is the creation of a new government-run insurance "option." Its advocates argue that only the creation of government-run insurance can facilitate "honest" competition among non-subsidized private plans.
With all due respect, this is a dishonest argument.
The public option is not designed to keep private insurance honest but to make private insurance go away.
A new government-run plan would stack the deck against any would-be competitors. The private sector has to pay taxes; the government collects taxes. The private sector has to account for its employees and benefits, while maintaining minimum reserve requirements; the government does not. The private sector pays whatever rates it negotiates with providers; the government dictates payments.