op-ed

Obama doubling down on health care reform; time to call his bluff

Rep. Joe Barton Chairman Emeritus, House Energy and Commerce Committee
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The president recently renewed his efforts to pass his version of health care reform and called on America to “make your voice heard.” Apparently he hasn’t been listening for the past year or just didn’t like what he heard.

From Town Halls to Tea Parties—people all over the nation stood up against the Democrats’ plan for a government take over of health care. You packed auditoriums and church halls and flooded congressional offices (including mine) with phone calls and letters—thousands of voices with one message, “hands off our health care!”

We turned that passion into results and the legislation stalled in Congress.

The victory appears to have been short lived.

Despite polls showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans want Congress to ditch the current reform plans and start over with a clean sheet of paper, this week the president began pushing Congress to move forward with his $1,000,000,000,000 (trillion) health care plan.

Democrats are currently cutting deals behind closed doors in the Capitol. Their plan is to abuse the legislative process by skipping regular order to pass this monstrosity by turning to a parliamentary trick called reconciliation. It has been used by both parties in the past, but never on anything as important or far reaching as health care.

To justify the move, the president and his Democratic cronies have flooded the media with half-truths and exaggerations, each designed at convincing people this isn’t a government take over of the health care system. But let’s look at the facts:

It will mandate private citizens purchase health care, whether they need it or want it.

It will cause millions of employers to cancel the health insurance they currently offer employees and force tens of millions of Americans into a government-run exchange.

It will create a health care czar to impose price controls on private health insurance that will lead to shortages and force even more people into government-run care.

I don’t doubt the president’s sincerity about the need to change health care in America, but despite his claims of compromise he has just paid lip service to Republican ideas.

There is a more effective and more affordable way to reform health care.

Instead of government intervention, we need to look to the marketplace—free choice, not mandates.

I believe we can improve competition and choices through increased price transparency that empowers providers and patients with the information they need to make the best possible health care decisions. We should look for ways to increase pooling opportunities to encourage more small businesses to offer insurance to their employees. Allowing competition across state lines would also lower premiums and increase choices. I believe we should demand tax equity for the self-employed and those who buy health insurance in the individual market.

These are solutions that don’t cost us a trillion dollars, but will make health insurance more affordable without jeopardizing the current coverage that people like. I will continue to do everything I can to prevent the radicalization of our health care system and fight for true health care reform.

Political pundits have said recently the president is doubling down on health care, well I think it is time to call his bluff.

The Democrats think they can roll over the American people, but I think they have underestimated you. It is time for you to stand up once again. Flood congressional offices with phone calls, attend rallies, stay engaged and let Washington know you won’t sit quietly while Democrats try to take control of your health care.

Together we can stop this bill once and for all.

Rep. Joe Barton represents the 6th District of Texas. He is the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.