Patient-centered reform achievable if GOP is not excluded from process

You deserve a better healthcare system.

You deserve to get better value for every dollar you spend on healthcare, so that higher quality care at lower costs is the standard.

You should have the freedom to take your health insurance with you from job to job, without worrying that if you change jobs, you’ll lose health insurance for your family.

If you own or work for a small business, you should be able to band together to increase your purchasing power and negotiate with competing healthcare plans for the best insurance plan at a price you can afford.

When you go to any doctor or hospital, they should be able to harness cutting-edge health information technology and, with your permission, access your relevant medical information to determine the best way to treat you — without you having to fill out long medical history forms or worry about repetitive tests, medical errors and unnecessary administrative costs.

Regardless of where you live, you and your family should have access to primary care and preventive services to help prevent and manage chronic illnesses, so you can all live longer, healthier lives.

That is the kind of patient-centered health care reform that I envision and that is actually achievable if senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle are able to shed decades of baggage built up from old campaigns, special interest pressure and “we’ve always done it this way” thinking.

If Republicans and Democrats work closely together to write and pass healthcare reform legislation, I believe we can make access to quality, affordable healthcare a reality for all Americans. I am a strong believer in the 80 percent rule — we can agree on 80 percent of the issues, and on 80 percent of each issue. If we work together, we can find that 80 percent on healthcare reform, and we can take decisive action on comprehensive healthcare reform legislation.

However, if Democrats shut Republicans out of the process, we may find ourselves on the same costly, irresponsible, unsustainable path forged in the Senate through the $1.2 trillion spending package.

The massive spending package not only contains hundreds of billions of dollars of wasteful, non-stimulus spending, it also includes dangerous expansions of government-rationed healthcare entitlement programs that are already unsustainable. Adding new, unfunded liabilities to these programs will further drive up costs for taxpayers and add to the mountains of debt we are passing to our children and grandchildren. Expanding these programs without addressing their out-of-control costs is fiscally irresponsible and threatens America’s long-term economic health.

We need to drive down costs by promoting robust, free-market competition that benefits patients and ensures higher quality, more affordable healthcare options. Vigorous competition is the best way to reduce costs, encourage American innovation and ingenuity, and protect the rights of patients to choose the physicians and healthcare providers that best meet their needs.

To see the benefits of competition in the healthcare market, look no further than Medicare Part D. Rather than simply throwing more money at Medicare, as the Democrats are doing with their spending bill, Congress worked with the president to institute market-based reforms that injected competition and choice into Medicare prescription drug plans. As a result, seniors are getting the drugs they need, the program has an 85 percent satisfaction rate, and it costs 37 percent less than originally expected. In Wyoming alone, 48 different options are available, and seniors can choose the plans that meet their needs at affordable prices each year.

On the other hand, requiring government-run public plans to compete in the marketplace will undermine competition. Forcing free-market plans to compete with these public plans, which can impose price controls and shift costs onto private plans, would create an unlevel playing field that would inevitably lead millions of Americans to lose their existing health insurance plans and force them into a taxpayer-funded, government-run health program.  

This could ultimately result in a single government payer controlling the entire healthcare market, a system in which taxpayers would fund and Washington bureaucrats would ration all healthcare spending and services.

I don’t trust another bloated, Washington bureaucracy to dole out my medical benefits, and I don’t think most folks in Wyoming or across the country do either. We must protect the rights of Americans to choose the doctors and hospitals they want. We should not take dollars out of the pockets of hardworking Americans to pay for government-rationed healthcare. More federal spending means more federal control and less consumer choice. We must instead enact substantial reforms to reduce costs, drive competition and improve quality, and then let you keep more of your hard-earned money so you can choose the healthcare plan, doctor, and hospital you want and need.

That’s the kind of healthcare system every American deserves.

Enzi is ranking member of the House Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.