Last Sunday night, the House of Representatives passed an overhaul of our health care system. In a series of late-night votes, the House approved the Senate legislation that passed in the upper chamber last Christmas Eve. As I write, the President is announcing plans to sign this bill into law this week. The House also passed a new bill -- known as a reconciliation bill -- to change the Senate bill after it becomes law. The reconciliation bill must now be considered in the Senate, where it will be fiercely contested, but unfortunately will likely pass. What does this new law mean for you? Let's strip the budget gimmicks and jargon so you know how it will affect you.
For starters, the bill takes away your freedom to choose whether to buy health insurance. Currently, many Americans, including young people in good health, simply choose not to buy health insurance. Beginning in 2015, this legislation will eliminate that choice and require that you buy government-approved insurance or pay a fine. Many states across the country are already threatening to challenge the new law's constitutionality.
The reconciliation bill would additionally raise taxes on businesses and individuals. It may be politically popular to increase taxes on individuals earning more than $200,000 annually, but what is almost always left unsaid is that many of these individuals are small business owners. They depend on profit to reinvest in their businesses to compete with larger ones. Medicare taxes will increase starting in 2013. Taxes on pharmaceuticals and medical devices, all of which are set to go into effect from 2011-14, are projected to simply be passed on to individuals in the form of higher prices.
Medicare Advantage continues to get cut. The bill on the President's desk cuts billions of dollars from Medicare Advantage; the House reconciliation bill cuts even more. Home health, skilled nursing facilities, and hospice services will also see funding cuts beginning next year. I've met with these organizations throughout the past year and their message is clear: this will lead to a decrease in services and fewer health care providers accepting Medicare patients.
Perhaps worst of all, reform that was in part supposed to lower our health care costs will actually increase them. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says health insurance premiums will actually increase in the individual market more than if we passed no legislation at all. President Obama's own health care experts concluded the Senate bill bends the cost curve up, not down. Yet, the President will sign it into law this week. These costs and premium increases will start in the next few years, while we won't see the majority of the benefits for at least another four years.
My Republican colleagues and I plan on opposing this reconciliation bill until the final vote is cast, because it will only make a bad law worse. Unfortunately, Democrats appear set on circumventing standard Senate procedure by limiting debate and lowering the number of votes required to pass the bill. Nebraskans deserve better.