A Bi-Partisan Health Care Fix

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THE HOUSE of Representatives has now voted for the largest possible
government takeover of health care, despite bipartisan opposition.
Thirty-nine House Democrats, including two from Pennsylvania, joined 176
Republicans in opposing this massive $1.2 trillion change in our
health-care system.

Fortunately, the haste of House Democrats isn’t being matched in the
Senate. A few Democrats there have wisely put the brakes on this move to
national bankruptcy. After promising a vote on health care by autumn, top
Senate Democrats are now saying the legislation could even be delayed into

This is good news. Voters made their voices heard in New Jersey and
Virginia two weeks ago. Months of frustration and concern over the economy,
unemployment and rising debt culminated in an electoral rebuke, and at
least some D.C. Democrats are starting to listen.

But this delay shouldn’t be an excuse for doing nothing. Too often,
Washington is plagued by a "my way or the highway" mentality that does
little to solve our problems. Our health care badly needs reform. Over the
last 30 years, costs have soared past inflation, and many hardworking
Pennsylvania families simply can’t afford insurance.

In the spirit of bipartisan reform, there are a number of sensible
actions that Congress can rally around that will go a long way toward
bringing down the cost of health care and health insurance. And these
reforms will neither bankrupt the country nor force people to lose their
current private coverage, as the House bill would.

FIRST, WE SHOULD eliminate the unfair discrimination against individually
purchased health insurance in our tax code.
Employers are now able to deduct the cost of health insurance they buy
for their employees, while individuals are not permitted to deduct the cost
of buying their own. This makes insurance much more expensive for those
whose employers don’t offer it. We can eliminate this unfairness by
providing individuals with the same tax deduction employers get. This
shouldn’t be controversial. Both Democrats and Republican can agree that
it’s unfair to penalize people simply because they don’t have
employer-provided insurance.

Second, we should let people buy insurance across state lines. Consumers
are now captive to the options available in their state. This limits
competition and breeds fewer choices and high prices.
In Pennsylvania, for example, BlueCross/BlueShield occupies more than
half of the health-insurance market. When a single male buys insurance,
he’s forced to pay for 52 areas of coverage, even if he has no interest in,
say, maternity benefits or a marriage therapist. Letting people buy
insurance that fits their needs, regardless of where they live, will inject
competition into the system at no cost to taxpayers.

Third, we should pass reasonable tort reform. According to a 2005 study,
93 percent of high-risk specialists in Pennsylvania order unnecessary
tests and procedures to diminish the risk of being sued. This raises costs
dramatically. In addition, a 2006 report demonstrated that Pennsylvania is
losing full-time physicians due to rising insurance costs.
Tort reform can help stem this tide. President Obama has expressed
interest in this reform, and, hopefully, that will mean Democrats in
Congress who’ve frequently buckled under pressure from the deep-pocketed
and well-organized trial lawyers will have a change of heart.

FOURTH, WE should let small businesses and organizations band together to
form associations that would be able to buy health insurance under federal
regulation on behalf of their members. Association with health plans can
create larger pools, driving costs down, and allowing them to pre-empt
costly state regulations. This will let small businesses compete with
larger corporations when it comes to providing employees with insurance.

Fifth, we need to make health care costs more transparent. The best way
to keep costs down is to make the costs visible.

These reforms may not be as radical as a government takeover, but they
will go a long way toward helping hard working Pennsylvanians reduce their
health-care costs and gain insurance coverage for many of the uninsured.
They don’t rely on massive new government spending, debt or tax increases
that would kill jobs, and they wouldn’t drive anyone off the private
coverage plans with which they’re now satisfied.

And these commonsense reforms should be able to pick up the bipartisan
support needed to move our country forward on health care in the kind of
unified way that was missing from last weekend’s House vote.

Pat Toomey is running for the Republican nomination for the Senate in
Pennsylvania in 2010.
This message was sent by: Toomey for Senate, 3440 Hamilton Blvd.
Allentown, PA 18103, Allentown, PA 18103