By Rep. Charlie Dent, Rep. Paul Broun and Rep. John Shadegg
Americans have gathered in historic numbers this summer and fall to express their views on health care reform, an issue that has inspired great passion and debate both across the country and within Congress.
Five congressional committees have produced health care legislation and more than 40 individual lawmakers have introduced solutions to the health care financing crisis in America. The White House has used a joint session of Congress, television specials, and numerous public speeches to pitch its own health care principles.
Yet there is still no consensus on Capitol Hill and no effort by leadership in the House of Representatives to attempt bipartisan reform on an issue sure to define this Congress. It's clear that health care reform is needed, and with an issue that affects one-sixth of our economy, the American people deserve a common-sense, bipartisan approach that isn't a trillion dollar bill. As members of Congress, we believe it is incumbent upon us to take a deliberative, common-sense approach to health care reform and deliver to the American people bipartisan legislation that they most desperately deserve.
Americans want health care reform that lowers costs and is easier to take with them from state to state, or job to job. They want access to their doctors and treatments with less interference from insurance companies, special interests and, of course, Washington bureaucrats. They want the doctor-patient relationship protected. And for those uninsured or with pre-existing conditions, we hear compassionate calls for an affordable approach to help those who truly need coverage.
Numerous Democrats in Congress have expressed support for the ideas listed above and for the following specific solutions to these issues:
(1) Individuals should be afforded the same tax advantages that businesses have by being able to deduct their 100 percent of all of their health care expenses from their taxes.
(2) Strengthen, expand and create new avenues for affordable health care for sick Americans through high-risk pools and reinsurance mechanisms.
(3) Expand choice and competition by allowing consumers to shop for health insurance across state lines.
(4) Create association health plans, which would allow small businesses and other entities to form pools that will increase availability and allow their sheer size to negotiate lower costs for their employees or members.
Each of these four specific policies enjoys wide, bipartisan support. While it's understood that these concepts do not make up a complete solution to our nation's health care problems, they would be a strong foundation for a bipartisan health care reform package that will start to address the inequities inherent in the health care financing system in our country, while still allowing for additional reforms in the future to advance the health care sector.
Democratic members should reach across the aisle and put forward a new health care reform bill addressing these four specific reform elements that we can agree will make health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. We stand ready to sign on as co-sponsors to any Democrat-led legislation that is comprised of these four items and will encourage members within the Republican conference to join us in this important endeavor.
As Congress works to transform health care financing failures, bipartisanship is essential. An issue that impacts every American is too important to rush through or to come down to a party line vote, and our constituents demand and deserve better.
Rep. Paul Broun, M.D., is a Georgia Republican, Rep. Charlie Dent is a Pennsylvania Republican and Rep. John Shadegg is an Arizona Republican.