By John Linder
President Barack Obama was on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday morning talking about his health care proposal. He told Robin Roberts that he has been reaching out to Republicans throughout this year to build a bipartisan bill, but they offered no ideas.
As a Republican who participated in a nearly 17-hour markup in the Ways and Means Committee on one of the three bills that passed House committees, and as a co-sponsor of two Republican proposals, that came as a complete surprise to me.
In committee, we offered 38 amendments to the Democrat bill, and all were defeated, most with party line votes. The same was true for the other two committees, though the Republicans on those committees offered more amendments than we offered.
Members of the Republican Study Committee have introduced 35 bills dealing with health care issues this Congress, and three comprehensive health care reform packages have been introduced by Republicans, but all have been totally ignored. When the president says that Republicans have offered no ideas, he knows he is lying.
The last time the Republican leadership sat at the table in the White House to talk about substantive ideas was on the stimulus bill. Our leadership suggested that our approach, using the president's chair of the Council of Economic Advisor's own formula, produced twice as many jobs for half the cost. He responded by rudely reminding them that he won the election.
The last time our leadership was invited to the White House to discuss health care was in late April.
The Democrat approach to health care is to increase the federal government's role in making health care decisions. Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton summed this attitude up during the 1993 debate over her health care proposal; "We cannot trust the American people to make these decisions."
The Republican approach, in all three comprehensive bills, is to put the patient and doctor in charge. We want the bureaucrats from both government and the insurance companies out of the way. We believe that the starting point is legal reform. We think that you should be able to shop for health insurance across state lines and that the 1,300 health insurers will compete with each other without the need for government to "keep them honest." It is offensive to me that Democrats routinely suggest that the entire health insurance industry is basically dishonest.
We believe that large associations of doctors, dentists, realtors or any other group should be able to pool their members to provide an opportunity for those 1,300 health insurers to compete for that business.
We support "risk pools" for all of those with pre-existing conditions to get coverage in the private markets with premiums that are subsidized by state governments, the federal government and assessments on insurers which profit in the state.
Why will the Democrats not entertain these ideas? Because they want the power to decide. We want you to make those decisions.
On Wednesday night, the president addressed this issue in a major speech to the nation for the 28th time in the last eight months. He reiterated that no one will be forced to change their insurance. He also said that in order for any insurance policy to qualify to sign new members up after four years, the policy must cover maintenance procedures such as pap smears and colonoscopies.
That wipes out health savings accounts, which are designed to cover large losses and in which you pay for the maintenance procedures. About 12 million people who have chosen these plans will lose their coverage. Additionally, 20 percent of Medicare recipients choose Medicare Advantage for their Medicare coverage. Under Obamacare, Medicare Advantage will end, and these seniors will forced into new coverage.
The president dramatically attacked those who argue that his proposal will pay for abortions. Unfortunately, in each of the three committees in the House, amendments were offered to specifically outlaw such coverage and were defeated on party line votes. He said that those who suggested illegal immigrants would be covered were liars. The impartial Congressional Research Service has declared that illegal immigrants will be eligible for coverage.
This was not an honest presentation by our president on a very important day. It returns me to my conviction that this is not about health care; it is about control.
Rep. John Linder, R-Duluth, has served in the House of Representatives since 1992.