Last week I hosted town hall meetings in Grand Island, Lexington, Kearney and Lincoln, where I outlined my principles for health care reform and heard feedback from Nebraskans on the latest proposals in Congress. In Lexington, I heard from a small businessman who provides health care to his employees but is concerned that the House bill will raise his taxes and compromise his ability to stay in business. It's a good lesson. The House has approved a bill that independent analysis says will raise costs and taxes. How will this legislation give this businessman the flexibility to adapt and grow his business? It doesn't.
In Lincoln I heard from a woman who wants a government-run insurance plan--the so-called public option. While I respectfully disagree with her, I do understand her concern that something must be done about encouraging competition and lowering insurance premiums. However, a government takeover of one-sixth of our economy is not the way to achieve this. A better approach would be to allow insurance companies to compete across state lines, resulting in lower premiums and more choice for our citizens.
The problems with the bill reinforce the point that setting a Christmas deadline risks rash decision-making and legislation that harms more than it helps. We need to be thoughtful and thorough in the details of any health care reform plan. Many of you shared concerns that the process has lacked transparency. You want the opportunity to read the bills and have reasonable time for feedback before Congress votes on reform. I agree.
I heard from a hospital administrator in Kearney who flat out said his hospital could not stay open if it had to get by on Medicaid and Medicare payments. Yet the current House bill cuts tens of billions of dollars from Medicare and expands Medicaid. How will rural medical providers and health care facilities survive? Critical access hospitals in rural Nebraska provide essential services, but lack a large population to help absorb cuts to Medicare. These cuts are a reality, as reported in a recent analysis by the Obama Administration's Department of Health and Human Services' experts on Medicare and Medicaid. We must ensure legislation passed in Washington doesn't hurt the Nebraska health care delivery system.
A young man in Grand Island expressed concern that Congress is passing legislation that will compromise future generations' ability to live the life that many of us have enjoyed. He spoke of the debt Washington is placing upon him and his children, and how that will burden his pursuit of the American dream. His point rings true. We can't afford to implement another huge government program that doesn't control costs, takes our taxes, and doesn't even do what it promised do.
We need health care reform. We need it to be well thought out, carefully considered and done right. It must protect Medicare, bend the cost curve, protect rural access to medical services, protect present and future taxpayers as well as protect life. And the development of health care reform legislation must be clear and transparent.