Opening Statement on H.R. 3200 (Healthcare), Committee on Labor and Education
July 15, 2009. Mr. Chairman: As we begin deliberations on this measure, we need to be mindful that the law of unintended consequences is beyond the jurisdiction of the Congress, and needs to be considered carefully.
This proposal affects the lives of every American, and ought to be approached with a high degree of humility and caution.
As imperfect as the current system is, it is well within our power to make it a great deal worse.
A mistake here could place burdens on employers at a particularly vulnerable time for our economy, resulting in millions more Americans without health insurance – or jobs.
A mistake here could result in the loss of health coverage for millions of Americans who currently have it and are satisfied with it as private insurers are unable to compete with the heavily subsidized public plan and go out of business.
A mistake here could produce a further implosion of the economy as high taxes send more investors and capital offshore. That was one of the critical mistakes that Herbert Hoover made by boosting upper income taxes in the Emergency Relief and Construction Act of 1932.
Even the Washington Post – hardly a bastion of conservatism – warned today that quote “There is no case to be made for the House Democratic majority’s proposal to fund healthcare legislation through an ad hoc income tax surcharge for top-earning households.”
The supporters of this legislation are correct that health care costs have skyrocketed and need to be brought under control. No one doubts that. But I hope the majority will understand that many of us are skeptical that the same government that pioneered $500 hammers and $1,000 toilet seats is somehow going to keep our health care costs down.
We all know from our own experience that a hallmark of bureaucracy is the waiting list. Waiting lists at the post office and the DMV are merely annoying and inconvenient. Waiting lists at our doctor’s offices and hospitals can be fatal.
I hope the majority will give sincere consideration to the alternative offered by Republicans to take the same tax advantages that we currently give to businesses to provide health care for their employees, and extend those same benefits to the employees themselves – so that every family through tax credits and vouchers – on a sliding income scale – can have within their reach a basic health plan that they can choose according to their own needs, that they can own regardless of their employer, and that they can change if it fails to meet their needs.
By restoring control to families over their own healthcare choices – we can preserve the best of our current system and avoid the tragedy of socialist regimes while at the same time bringing genuine, consumer-choice-driven competition that will keep costs down, choices plentiful, and quality high.