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In my travels across Kentucky this August, I met with many doctors, nurses, seniors, hospital workers, small-business owners, and countless others concerned about their health care and what kinds of reforms government can make.
Everybody had an opinion.
No one claimed the current system is perfect.
But I didn’t meet anybody who thought a government takeover of health care was the answer.
No, what Kentuckians told me loud and clear was that those of us in Washington should take the time necessary to get health care reform right.
I don’t blame them. Like millions of Americans, I recognize the need for health care reform—many are worried about rising costs, and too many go without coverage at all.
But any steps we take toward health care reform must be the right ones.
The wrong ones would make Americans worse off by raising prices even further and forcing many off the coverage they already have and like.
When the president spoke before a joint session of Congress recently, I hoped he would also acknowledge the message the American people have sent their government in my Kentucky travels and in town halls across the country.
Something as important as health care reform affects all Americans. It demands our attention, not a quick fix.
And it demands bipartisanship, not a bill rammed through on a party-line vote.
Americans are concerned about the proposals they’ve heard so far from the White House and the liberal majority in Congress.
They don’t want Medicare cut to fund a new government program or their taxes raised.
They don’t want a government-run plan to put private health plans out of business, leaving them with fewer and fewer health care choices. And they don’t want far-away bureaucrats to have the final say over critical health decisions.
I did appreciate the president’s acknowledgement that junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals are part of the problem.
These suits make the amount doctors have to pay in medical malpractice insurance so high, many have been forced to limit the care they provide.
A number of hospitals in Kentucky have even stopped delivering babies.
But I don’t think his proposal to study these runaway lawsuits goes far enough. Health care reform that placed firm but reasonable limits on these lawsuits would lower costs and bring doctors back to many parts of Kentucky and elsewhere.
And I continue to oppose any plan that would lead to a government takeover of health care—and many proposals from the liberals in Congress, like a “health care cooperative” or a “trigger option” that would supposedly only kick in when certain conditions are met, are just that, a government takeover, under another name.
No, the American people have made it clear that they don’t want us to tear down the entire health care system and put an even bigger government-run one in its place.
They understand that Medicare faces serious challenges, and don’t want us to cut $500 billion from it to pay for a new government program.
They know our economy is struggling and they don’t want new mandates and tax increases on small businesses that will kill jobs especially when our economy is in the shape it’s in.
And they don’t want the massive increase in spending and debt that these bills would impose. Instead, they want us to focus on where the real problems lie, and fix them.
In addition to limiting junk lawsuits on doctors and hospitals, Republicans have many ideas to reform health care, like creating incentives for prevention and wellness, providing tax benefits for individuals who purchase their own coverage, and relieving excessive taxes or mandates on the small businesses that provide millions of Americans with health care and jobs.
It’s not too late for both Democrats and Republicans to heed the message heard across the country this summer and recommit to commonsense, bipartisan reforms.
It’s not too late for Congress and the president to agree on solutions that target the real challenges people face instead of growing government.
When it comes to reforming health care, we owe them no less.
Senator McConnell is Kentucky’s Senior United States Senator.