March 2010 Column - Federal Health Care Bill Imposes Costly, Unconstitutional Mandates on States and Citizens
On March 23, President Barack Obama signed into law a 10-year, $938 billion health care reform bill. I have very serious concerns about this legislation, particularly the financial impact it will have on the Commonwealth budget in four years when we are forced to match federal dollars for the increased Medicaid eligibility the bill envisions.
It has been estimated that it will cost the Commonwealth $2.2 billion to cover those costs. Pennsylvania finished the last fiscal year with a $3.25 billion deficit, and revenues for the current year are already $487 million below estimates. This new mandate from Washington will open another enormous hole in the state budget by forcing us to take on even more spending when we do not have the funds to cover our current obligations. A mandate of this size will almost certainly result in a massive tax increase on Pennsylvania families who are already struggling to make ends meet.
I am also concerned that this legislation takes health care decisions out the hands of patients and doctors and puts them in the hands of government bureaucrats. In nations like Canada and Australia, where the government is in control of the health care system, long waiting lists, denial of pharmaceuticals, age limits for procedures, a lack of physicians and a shortage of medical equipment are commonplace. People routinely wait weeks and months for medical treatment and the government decides if they will get the necessary treatment based on the cost of the treatment and the patient’s age. That is rationed health care and it is unacceptable.
Perhaps most troubling to me is the fact that the legislation requires all individuals to purchase health insurance from a third party provider and it imposes fines on those who fail to comply. This mandate is a violation of state sovereignty and it is unconstitutional. That is why I have signed a letter supporting Attorney General Tom Corbett’s decision to join attorneys general from a number of other states in challenging the constitutionality of this legislation.
I have also co-sponsored legislation, House Bill 2053, which would preserve Pennsylvanians’ 10th Amendment rights by empowering them to opt out of the federal plan. This legislation will protect a patient’s right to pay directly for medical service and it will prohibit any individual from being penalized for not purchasing federally sanctioned health insurance.
Instead of looking to the government as the solution to our nation’s health care problems, we need to retool our health care system to lower costs for all 12 million Pennsylvanians and provide better access to the uninsured. House Republicans have developed a package of legislation designed to lower health care costs and provide the necessary safety net using existing resources and without new or increased taxes.
This package includes measures to:
- Provide an incentive for health care facilities to use an electronic prescribing system, which would reduce medical errors, increase the use of generic drugs and improve health care quality. Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. doctors have switched to e-prescribing.
- Offer student loan repayment to qualified recent allied health professional graduates who practice full time in designated shortage areas.
- Require insurers to offer an affordable, low-cost insurance product that individuals and families can purchase and a retooling of the current adultBasic program, which would establish a sliding scale premium based on income, require the Department of Insurance to verify eligibility every six months, and use rolling enrollment procedures, which would allow more individuals to be covered.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to reform what needs to be changed in our health care system. However, I will remain committed to the idea that health care reform must be patient-centered, where doctors and patients, not the government, are making health care decisions.
Rep. Dave Hickernell
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Sean Yeakle
House Republican Public Relations