The biggest challenge posed by health care reform is fixing what's broken without breaking what works. What's broken is obvious -- health care costs too much, covers too few, and is of uneven quality. What works is the health insurance that employers voluntarily provide to more than 160 million Americans. Despite this success, some policymakers want to create a government-run health care plan. This fiscally reckless approach will lead to lower-quality health care and more government bureaucracy, while undermining one of the most functional parts of our health care system.
To encourage reforms that will lower costs, improve quality, and expand coverage, the U.S. Chamber launched the Campaign for Responsible Health Reform. In the weeks ahead, the campaign will communicate to businesses and families about the importance of protecting employer-sponsored health insurance and the risks involved with government-run health care. This will be achieved through advertisements, meetings with local policymakers, and outreach to citizens.
Unfortunately, Congress' current plans to reform health care are anything but responsible. The financial strain that the House bill would impose on Americans is tremendous -- more than $1 trillion -- while still failing to cover every American.
To pay for it, Congress may tax businesses that don't offer health insurance and raise rates on small businesses. This would drain desperately needed funds from a private sector struggling to overcome the recession.
A government-run plan would move us closer to a European model where there are fewer covered procedures, longer wait times for consultations and surgeries, and more government bureaucracy. In Massachusetts, which mandated universal health care in 2006, patients wait an average of 63 days to get an appointment with a primary care provider. That is seven times the wait in Philadelphia or Atlanta.
Further, employer-sponsored health coverage would be decimated by a government-run plan, and millions of Americans would be forced out of their existing plans. For the 8 out of 10 workers who are satisfied with their current insurance coverage, this would come as a real blow. We can and must do better than this.
Americans deserve a first-class health care system -- one that delivers accessible, affordable, high-quality care. But we can't achieve this goal by attacking the bedrock of our current health care system -- employer-sponsored health insurance. We should, instead, focus on positive reforms such as pay-for-performance, comparative effectiveness research, and medical malpractice reform, while taking steps to provide for those who are truly in need. Let's get started on fixing what's broken.