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Greg Walden: Protecting personal choice in health care

Greetings! As I write this note on Wednesday morning, I’m looking out across a fresh coat of snow blanketing central Oregon. Before my town hall in Bend yesterday, it was probably 60 degrees outside and sunny. Such it is here on the high desert, and the best part is that if you don’t like the weather, you can probably just wait a few minutes to try out something different!

I’m wrapping up a six-day, 953-mile swing through southern, eastern, and central Oregon that has taken me to nine counties for 29 meetings. After my town hall in Madras, I’ve completed 16 such forums all across the Second District in just the last three months.

One topic that came up at most of the town halls was the future of health care in this country. As you probably know, the Supreme Court heard arguments last week on the constitutionality of Obamacare. I voted against it, have helped pass legislation in the House to overturn it, and think the Supreme Court should toss it out so Congress can start over on real reform.

The bottom line is this: we need to protect personal choice in health care. We need more personal choice, not bureaucrat control of the health care system and personal health decisions.

We won’t know the Supreme Court’s final decision until a bit later this spring (May or June). But it’s already been two years since the law passed, and with so much talk out there about it again, I wanted to make sure you had the facts and the numbers about the new health care law:

  • $504 a year premium increases for young Americans. Americans younger than 35 who try to buy their own insurance will pay $42/month ($504/year) more under ObamaCare, according to a study by RAND Health. (Associated Press, 3/29/2010)
  • $12,753 cost per taxpayer over the next ten years. The latest CBO cost projection for ObamaCare has the law’s price tag at $1.76 trillion over the next ten years. That averages out to about for $12,753 every American taxpayer (about 138 million taxpayers in America with positive adjusted gross income). (The Washington Examiner, 3/13/2012; The Tax Foundation, 10/24/2011)
  • $525 billion in new taxes, fees, and penalties on families and small businesses (Douglas W. Elmendorf, “Letter to Nancy Pelosi,” Congressional Budget Office, 3/20/2010)
  • 30 percent of employers “definitely” plan to drop coverage in 2014.(Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/21/2011)
  • 20 million Americans could lose employer-sponsored healthcare(Politico, 3/15/2012)
  • 150,000 doctor shortage. (The Wall Street Journal, 4/12/2010)
  • Up to $43 billion in new Medicaid costs for states(p. 10-11, Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, May 2010)
  • $500 billion in Medicare cuts. (Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery, With Senate ‘fixes’ bill, GOP sees last chance to change health-care reform,” The Washington Post, 3/24/2010)
  • $682 increase in per-person healthcare costs from 2011 to 2012. “Health care costs continue to grow – trend of 5.9% expected. Average total health care costs per employee are expected to reach $11,664 in 2012, up from $10,982 in 2011.” (Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Employer Survey on Purchasing Value in Healthcare, March 2012)
  • 77 percent of companies considering dropping health coverage for employees. Only 23% of companies are confident that they will offer health benefits in 10 years, down from 73% in 2007 and 57% in 2009.(“Performance in an Era of Uncertainty,” Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Employer Survey on Purchasing Value in Healthcare, March 2012)

Unsustainable deficits and how they hamper economic opportunity continue to be a major topic of concern for Oregonians in the Second District – that much was clear in the town halls I’ve conducted across the Second District.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a new estimate that predicts President Obama’s budget would add $3.5 trillion to annual deficits through 2022.

According to data from the International Monetary Fund, the United States is now in the same kind of dangerous debt territory as some of the most troubled European nations. Measured by government debt as a share of the economy, here’s where we stand:

  • Spain               64%
  • Portugal           91%
  • United States  100%
  • Ireland             114%
  • Italy                120%
  • Greece             152%

Just about half of our country’s debt is held outside the country, by countries like Japan and China, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury. Here’s what’s most shocking: with the interest we pay to China on our debt, China can afford to buy three new Joint Strike Fighters every week-with $50 million per week left over. (not that we’d ever allow that, of course)

And meanwhile, the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in 1,072 days. Christopher Columbus could have sailed across the Atlantic to the New World 14 times during that span. It’s time for government to tighten its belt and balance its budget just like families do every month. We don’t have deficits because Americans are taxed too little; we have deficits because Washington spends too much.

The Republican-controlled House last week passed a budget that rejects the policies of debt, doubt, and decline and advances a plan of action for American renewal. Our budget would cut spending by $5 trillion relative to the President’s budget and reform the broken tax code to make it simple, fair, and competitive.

It would also bring deficits below 3 percent of GDP by 2015 and puts our budget on a path to balance by reducing debt as a share of the economy over the next decade (see the list above comparing the U.S. to European countries).

Under the President’s budget, the size of government never falls below 23 percent of the economy over the next decade, while the House GOP budget brings it down to 20 percent of the economy by 2015, putting it more in line with the historical average so the private sector can grow and create jobs.

We put the President’s plan up for a vote on the House floor. It received zero votes.

I’ll keep you posted as we continue our work to create a more efficient and effective government. We cannot keep piling a mountain of debt on our children and grandchildren.


Have a great rest of the week.

Best regards,

GW Signature Blue

Greg Walden
Oregon’s 2nd District Representative
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