NASE News

Criticism of House Tri-Committee Health Care Draft at Ways and Means Hearing

The House Committee on Ways and Means recently joined the long list of congressional committees talking about health care reform, holding a hearing entitled “Health Reform in the 21st Century: Proposals to Reform the Health System.”

Committee Republicans and some witnesses were very critical of the discussion draft of health care reform legislation released by the chairs of the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor Committees. Although Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) stated that “the book is not closed” on discussion of the bill, Ranking Member David Camp (R-Mich.) expressed concern that the bill did not contain details of cost estimates or revenue-raising offsets.

House Democrats have been considering multiple provisions to raise revenue, such as a surtax on high-income individuals, a value-added tax and limits on itemized deductions. Democrats have not yet obtained a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for the costs included in the draft bill, and did not say when those details would be released.

David Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute was not supportive of the House draft, insisting that a public plan would inevitably lead to a single-payer health care system like in his native Canada. Gratzer testified that Canada implemented a single payer system in the 1960s, and that many Canadians are unhappy with their system now. Gratzer asked the committee not to forget what is good about the American system, and emphasized individual choice as the best health reform solution.

Richard Kirsch of Health Care for America NOW! was critical of the current health care system getting in the way of delivering health care, reminding the committee that many Americans cannot afford health care, and high costs contribute to the “job lock” phenomenon for those that can afford health care. Kirsch noted that health care is often prohibitively expensive for small businesses, but that an exchange would allow those happy with current coverage to keep it, and not force others to depend on employers for coverage.

Chip Kahn of the Federation of American Hospitals gave a fairly supportive testimony, saying “we realize the Congress is going to call upon hospitals to contribute financially to health coverage expansion,” despite the bill’s provisions to trim hospital payments.

Read testimony from the hearing on the committee’s Web site.