Let’s pursue real health-care reform

Ohio’s unemployment rate hovers near 10 percent and in eastern and southeastern Ohio, we continue to see staggeringly high unemployment numbers. These aren’t just statistics — these are friends and neighbors who are out of work and desperate to keep their families afloat.

The unemployment numbers also tell a story of employers who want to expand their companies and hire more workers — but can’t afford to do so in this uncertain economy. And in the midst of one of the worst economic downturns we’ve seen in generations, the federal government took drastic action to enact a government takeover of health care.

Costly proposition

Doesn’t make sense, does it? Our national debt stands at $14 trillion yet the poorly named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is projected to cost more than $1 trillion while adding more than $500 billion to our deficit in the first 10 years of enactment and about $1.5 trillion in the next decade, according to a letter released by American Action Forum sent to congressional leadership from 200 economists and experts. The 2,000-page legislation puts the government square in the middle of the patient-doctor relationship, punishes job creators and threatens the popular Medicare Advantage program for seniors.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal this costly legislation and start working on replacing it with real reforms that will control costs, provide access to quality, affordable care to all Americans, and provide coverage to individuals who have pre-existing conditions at a price they can afford.

Last year, proponents of so-called health-care reform promised better economic conditions while providing health coverage to all workers. Instead, we’ve watched our economy sputter in a half-hearted kick start that hasn’t created jobs. The new law adds to the tax burden that is already smothering small businesses and stifling innovation and risk taking. The law raises taxes by $28 billion on employers who do not provide government-approved coverage. In a perverse twist, business owners often found the fines less costly than providing insurance for their workers.

Health insurers are required to pay an annual “health insurance fee” — Washington-speak for a new tax — that will be passed onto consumers. And don’t forget about the new slate of IRS reporting requirements and regulations that penalize growth and punish success.

Many physicians also support the repeal. In a Thomson Reuters survey released this week, nearly two-thirds of U.S. doctors believe the new law will cause a decline in the quality of care. In barely one year since Congress passed this flawed legislation, 66 percent of doctors are considering no longer accepting government health programs, according to another recent survey by Athena Health and Sermo.

As physicians drop government programs, there will be a parallel influx of patients forced onto the government roles as private insurance carriers become secondary to programs like Medicaid and Medicare. It’s estimated that by 2019 more than 80 million people will be dependent on Medicaid, already a bloated bureaucracy that state governments can barely fund. As for Medicare, the government takeover ironically slashes the popular Medicare Advantage that provides health care for nearly 15 million seniors. In the 6th Congressional District, the 26,347 seniors who rely on this program risk losing their coverage thanks to $200 billion in cuts.

During my campaign, I made it clear that if I was elected, I would help reverse the government health-care takeover, which was a missed opportunity to control costs and enact real reforms that won’t bankrupt us. We did that Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives — and I kept my promise to my constituents. Now we can get to work on real reforms that will control costs, help individuals with pre-existing conditions get the care they need at a price they can afford, and provide access to quality health care that every American deserves.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican, represents Ohio’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses all or parts of 12 counties in eastern and southeastern Ohio.

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