Rep. Shuler votes against health care reform bill

Published 1:32 am Friday, November 13, 2009

Editors note:The following was released by Congressman Heath Shuler (D-NC) explaining why he voted no on the latest health care reform bill in the U.S. House. The bill was approved by the House and next must get Senate approval. Shuler also explained in a separate release the details of the new health reform bill. Shuler represents North Carolinas 11th District, which includes Polk County. See front page story for a feature on a local resident who has struggled to cover health care costs despite having insurance.

Why Shuler voted no

U.S. Representative Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, released the following statement after voting against H.R. 3962, the House health care reform legislation.

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There is no question that our nations health care system is broken. Over the past few months, I have spoken with hundreds of constituents and received thousands of calls, letters and emails about health care reform. I thank everyone in Western North Carolina who so willingly shared their stories and concerns with me. It is clear to me that we, as a country, are failing to provide enough Americans with affordable options to manage their health care, prevent illness and treat existing conditions.

I support many of the provisions in HR 3962. We must require health insurance companies to provide coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and prohibit them from dropping coverage when an insured individual becomes sick. I support expanding coverage to individuals who do not currently have health insurance. I also support a provision in the bill that repeals an antitrust loophole that currently allows insurance companies to artificially drive up the price of coverage. I recognize our nations need for reform.

However, this legislation costs $1.055 trillion and fails to include sufficient cost-containment and deficit reduction measures. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, this bill will not reduce the federal governments spending on health care over the long term. Any reform that does not control long-term costs will be short-sighted and unwise.

This legislation fails to control the inefficiencies in health care that could be used to create substantial savings to drive down the bills overall cost. Our health care system is laden with waste, fraud and abuse, and this bill has not remedied those problems. Adding millions of people into a broken system is not an acceptable solution. We need reform that rewards quality outcomes and moves us away from the fee-for-service system that rewards the quantity of service. We need reform that rewards healthy lifestyles that would prevent excessive procedures and increased spending.

Unemployment has just topped 10 percent nationwide. Now is not the time to raise federal taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars and impose new and costly mandates on state governments, which would likely require states to raise taxes on working families. During these challenging times, I believe we should be focused on our economy and creating jobs, not growing the size of the federal government with new mandates. We must stop the out-of-control spending in Washington and begin reducing our skyrocketing national debt. The path we are on is unsustainable. If health care reform does not bend the overall cost curve, we are simply passing higher costs to our children and grandchildren.

It is unfortunate that we have not been able to draft a health care reform package in a bipartisan manner. Unlike some of my colleagues, I pledge to continue to work to improve this legislation rather than to act as a roadblock to prevent any meaningful reform. I am convinced that passing health care reform is a moral obligation and a fiscal necessity, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to address rising health care costs. Todays vote is one of the first steps in a lengthy legislative process, and I am optimistic that we will craft a solution that will lower health care costs for working families and small businesses. America needs meaningful health care reform that gives our country affordable, accessible, and sustainable health care.

Details of H.R. 3962

U.S. Rep. Shuler released the following prior to his vote on the health care reform bill.

The House Democratic leadership unveiled a health care reform bill last week that, if passed, will make dramatic changes to the health care industry.

The 1,990 page bill currently being discussed is significantly different from H.R. 3200, the health care legislation approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee in July.&bsp; I am pleased to see some positive changes in the new legislation, including the repeal of an anti-trust loophole that currently allows health care insurance companies to drive up the price of medical care. This measure would bar anti-competitive practices such as price fixing and allow for increased state regulation. This provision is similar to the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act, H.R. 3596, which l cosponsored last month to create more competition in the insurance industry and drive down prices.

I continue to be concerned about the $1.2 trillion price tag attached to the health care legislation, H.R. 3962.&bsp; Health care premiums for families rose about 5 percent this year, and have more than doubled over the past decade, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation data.&bsp; Health care reform must slow the rising cost of health insurance affecting American families and businesses already weighed down by our struggling economy. The current legislation does not adequately reduce the cost of health care for most Americans, and threatens to make health insurance even more expensive.&bsp; Additionally, the bill does not do enough to reduce the increasing amount that the federal government spends on Medicare, Medicaid and other health care programs. These cost increases are unsustainable for our federal budget in the long run.

The House leadership may call for a vote on the legislation as early as this week. Following the House vote, the bill will be considered by the Senate. As I consider the legislation, I am working on reading the bill and anticipating how the legislation would affect Western North Carolina and our country as a whole. &bsp;

EPA and Interior Department spending

Last week, both the House and the Senate passed the bill that finances the Environmental Protection Administration and the Department of the Interior, which funds our national parks and federal forests. The Department of Interior, Environment and Related Appropriations Act of 2010, H.R. 2996, included funding for wildlife preservation, land and water conservation, and a substantial increase to provide loans for local sewer and water projects.

This bill also included my provision that allocated $713,000 to buy 88 acres of land to provide public access to the scenic site of Catawba Falls and build a parking area.&bsp; This follows the passage in September of my bill that allowed the adjustment of the boundaries of the Pisgah National Forest to include a total of 301 acres of additional land, 213 acres that already were owned by the federal government and the additional 88-acre tract of privately owned land. Currently, visitors need to pass through a steep and rugged wooded area to legally reach the Catawba Falls, and people often inadvertently trespass on private property. This legislation, coupled with the funding allocated in H.R. 2996, will open up Catawba Falls to hikers and fishermen, as well as give an economic boost to the economy of McDowell County.

Small business

The Small Business Financing and Investment Act, H.R. 3854, was passed in the House last week.&bsp;&bsp; This bill was designed to make obtaining government loans easier and less costly for small businesses. The legislation will cut red tape for small businesses to obtain government loans, lower fees on many loans and raise the maximum amount of a Small Business Administration loan to $3 million.

The legislation will get more affordable capital into the hands of small business owners who all too often face difficulties obtaining loans and other financing.&bsp;&bsp; The Small Business Committee, of which I am a member and a Chairman of a Subcommittee, estimates that the bill will allow $44 billion for lending and investment to small businesses, and is expected to create and save up to 1.3 million jobs a year.