Health care reform can’t afford to wait (Sen. Max Baucus)

Our health care system is in crisis. And it’s not just a crisis for the uninsured. It’s not just about health. It’s about our economy.

Health care spending is outpacing economic growth at an alarming rate, growing on average 2.4 percentage points faster than the GDP since 1970. And Since 2000, the cost of insurance has increased 2.5 times more than wages per year.

If we don’t act now, health insurance will become increasingly unaffordable for American families every day. The cost of the average family employer-sponsored health insurance plan will reach $24,000 in 2016-- an 84 percent increase over last year.



If we don’t act now, small business workers will continue to fall through the cracks.

If we don’t act now, the American economy will continue to lose billions of dollars because of a broken health care system.

If we don’t act now American businesses will be forced to cut health insurance for their employees to remain competitive in a global marketplace.

If we don’t act now, we will continue to spend nearly twice the average of other developed countries and receive poorer health outcomes.

It’s clear we can’t afford not to act.

We have not only a fiscal responsibility to reform our health care system, but also a moral obligation to ensure that every American has access to quality affordable health care for generations to come.

To fix our broken health care system, everyone will have to give and take. Everyone will have to suspend judgment and work together to find a uniquely American solution to our health care crisis, one that builds on what works in our current system and fixes what doesn’t.

The Finance Committee began work on health care reform more than a year ago and has since held over a dozen hearings on the topic. Last November, I released a white paper outlining my vision for health care reform. In April and May of this year, Senator Grassley and I held roundtable discussions with health care policy and industry experts. Then, we laid out detailed policy options focusing on three main subjects: reducing costs and improving quality in the health care delivery system, expanding health care coverage to all Americans, and financing comprehensive health care reform.

We are exploring ways to deliver care more efficiently and to provide high quality care more consistently. We are aiming to build into the system incentives for health care providers to focus on delivering the best care and closely coordinating with a patient’s other doctors and providers. The options we put on the table would invest in the resources health care providers need to deliver care like cutting-edge technology and up-to-the-minute research and information. The options would also work to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicare program.

Senator Grassley and I have looked at ways to reform the individual and small group health insurance markets to end discrimination against sicker individuals. Our options would create a competitive insurance market where insurance companies compete on price and quality and not on their ability to cherry-pick the healthiest individuals. The options also include an expansion of Medicare and Medicaid to cover the poorest Americans and make coverage more affordable by providing tax credits to low income individuals and small businesses. Together, those policy options make purchasing coverage easier and more understandable for all consumers.

We’ve also looked at ways to pay for this investment by increasing payment accuracy and reducing disparities in payment and spending amounts among different geographic regions across the country. Additionally, we’ve examined tax provisions that promote wellness and healthy lifestyle choices, as well as proposals President Obama included in his budget.

Now it’s time to put all that preparation to good use as we aim to mark-up a comprehensive health reform bill this month. I’m confident we will succeed in the effort to reform our health care system, because we simply can’t afford to fail.