Buyer Beware of Many Health Care Proposals

By Beacon Staff

Our nation is involved in one of the most important debates in a long time. The issue of having affordable, quality health care for all Americans has the attention of our representatives in Washington, D.C., and they appear ready to move on some big reforms before the end of the year.

In the rush to pass reform, many politicians have come up with ideas that would drastically change the health care system for the worse. Several of these ideas stop short of an outright government takeover of health care, but they would lead to that if implemented.

For example, some have proposed the creation of a government-run public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers. Why should anyone be afraid of a little healthy competition, you ask? Because a government-run option is not healthy competition – it’s unfair competition. Like with Medicare and Medicaid, the government can dictate the below-market price it is willing to pay and providers have to accept it. Not exactly a level playing field.

Under this public option scheme, the government can keep its plan’s price artificially lower than private insurers. Without true competition, the private insurers will go out of business and people will be left with only one option – Uncle Sam’s plan. Advocates of such an idea know that a government option may not the swiftest move to socialized medicine, but it is the inevitable consequence.

There are also punitive mandates in some proposals that fine small businesses that cannot provide health insurance for their workers. In our experience, small business folks would love to be able to have health insurance for all their employees, but the cost from year to year is too high. Many small businesses have already closed their doors this recession, so how are higher taxes and penalties going to help keep people employed? You can’t have health insurance coverage through your job if you don’t have a job in the first place.

Our country should look for better ways to cover those people who have no insurance. Five years ago, the Montana Chamber took a more pro-active approach on the issue of health care when we created Chamber Choices – a health insurance pooling plan that allows Montana small businesses to group together and buy affordable, quality insurance. In just five years, we have over 17,000 lives covered and around half of them previously had no insurance. Not a dime of taxpayer dollars were used to fund it and the increases from year-to-year have averaged in the single digits.

We thank Montana Sen. Max Baucus for his pro-active leadership on this important issue. We know he has taken a lot of heat from people who prefer a complete government takeover of the health care system, but we appreciate his more careful, reasoned approach that allows Congress enough time to adequately address the issues. We thank Congressman Denny Rehberg for his vote against an extreme health care reform bill in the House, and we urge Sens. Baucus and Jon Tester to vote for sensible solutions for everyone’s health care on the Senate side.

The last thing America needs is a health care bill that gets pushed through with maximum political force and little debate. It is crucial that reforms to help the uninsured don’t end up negatively impacting those who currently have health coverage.

Webb Brown is President/CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce.

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