May 3, 2011 -
Today, while millions of Americans remain unemployed and millions more await the chance to receive affordable health care, the Republicans are spending another week rehashing old debates instead of talking about creating jobs and, in fact, in this case, undermining Americans' access to quality health care.
This rule brings forth two bills. First, the majority brings forth, under this bill, legislation that will prevent Americans from accessing the exchanges which are competitive marketplaces in which to buy private insurance.
Now, there's a lot of subterfuge and misinformation in this debate. For instance, there is no ObamaCare option. There is no public insurance option that we are even discussing here. What is being discussed is a marketplace in which individuals, primarily those who work in small businesses or are self-employed, will have access to choose from the private policy of their choice.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, under this Republican proposal, 2 million fewer Americans will be enrolled in exchanges in 2015. The Congressional Budget Office also says that H.R. 1213 will result in higher premiums in the exchange. Again, a bill that is delivering higher premiums for American citizens--hardly, hardly the outcry that I have heard on the stump.
I had a chance to have public meetings in the last 2 weeks back in our district, as many Members of Congress have. My constituents, Mr. Speaker, did not request that we deliver higher health insurance premiums. They wanted us to deal with the deficit. They wanted us to deal with jobs and the economy. Not a single constituent of mine asked for higher health insurance premiums, which seems to be a priority of this Congress.
Now, there may be a talking point involved, and certainly both of these bills today were also included in H.R. 2, which was a repeal of health care reform, largely. Now we are looking at individual pieces. But this new marketplace has historically been an idea that has had strong bipartisan support: to have competitive health care exchanges; to keep in tact America's employment-based system while expanding access to tens of millions of people, including small businesses and people who are self-employed. Truly, the exchanges represent an opportunity for a more competitive and a more transparent marketplace that empowers consumers to make the choice between private insurers.
The other bill that is brought forth under this particular rule, after we have dispensed with denying health care to an estimated 2 million more Americans through the exchanges, we are also, in this next bill, eliminating funding for school-based health clinic construction, renovation, and equipment. That would particularly harm our Nation's health care services, especially for children, youth, and families and those with low incomes.
School-based health care clinics serve students whose access to health care is limited; and frequently, the scope of services is determined by school officials in partnership with parents and community-based health care initiatives. Services are designed to identify problems early, provide continuity of care, and improve academic participation. These programs save money by providing access to preventive care that frequently alludes many of the families affected.
And yet also, while we are denying basic preventive care to our Nation's youth, the passage of this bill will also deny job opportunities to Americans all across the country who are ready with shovel-ready projects to begin improving and building school-based health care clinics. So here we are with a bill: less jobs, less health care, less education--hardly the priorities that I think the voters wanted for the 112th Congress.
Democrats believe strongly that we need to make tough choices to end the deficit and end the climbing spiral of debt. But what we are left with with these two bills, as separate from H.R. 2, is actually the worst of both worlds. The Republicans leave in place the taxes that were used to pay for health care reform--they leave in place in these two bills the medical device tax; they leave in place the tax on unearned income--and yet they remove the benefits to the American people from these taxes.
Whenever the American people agree to any degree of taxes, they want to see a tangible result. But what is being done with these bills is leaving in place the taxes of health care reform and removing the benefits to the American people of health care reform. That's hardly a balanced and fair approach, and it's one that the House should reject.
I would remind my colleagues of House Resolution 9, which I supported on the floor of the House of Representatives. It dealt with 13 items out of the original jurisdiction of our Rules Committee before the gentleman from New York joined our Rules Committee. We instructed the House on replacing health care reform and what some areas for working on it would be.
I would like to submit to the Record in the context of this debate, Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 9, which was adopted by the House and, indeed, discusses changing existing health care law within the various committees of jurisdiction to foster economic growth and private sector job creation; to lower health care premiums, preserve a patient's ability to keep their health care plan, provide people with preexisting conditions affordable access to health care; and many, many other good ideas.
But rather than discussing any of these 13 points that were contained in House Resolution 9, the business of the committees of jurisdiction has apparently been not only to repeal health care reform generally but now to repeal each of the individual components while leaving the taxes in place. We would encourage these committees to comply with House Resolution 9. And I think by rejecting this bill before us today, we are sending a powerful message to the committees of jurisdiction that rather than talking about repeal, repeal, repeal, they need to also discuss replace.
What are we going to do if the exchanges don't exist or are handicapped to provide people with preexisting conditions access to affordable health care? Again, if we repeal the support for the exchanges, how are we fostering economic growth and private sector growth? How are we encouraging small businesses and self-employed people to have access to the same health care services at a similar cost that large employers already have?
I call upon my colleagues to reject this rule and both underlying bills and begin the discussions of how to improve and build upon health care reform, finding a common ground between Members of both parties and saving taxpayers money to help reduce the deficit.