Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Wed, Jan. 22

Column: Will reform do no harm?

As every doctor knows, the cardinal rule of medicine is to first do no harm.

But the health-care reform bills being written by Congressional Democrats would violate that rule and President Obama's promise that, "if you like your current coverage, you get to keep it."

Take the 160 million Americans who have health insurance through their employer. Most say they like their insurance, but under the so-called reforms before Congress, employers would drop coverage for most of them.

For example, the House of Representatives bill would require employers to either pay for health insurance for their employees or pay a penalty. Since the "pay-or-play" tax penalty is cheaper than continuing to provide insurance, many businesses would drop their plans.

This is why the health-care experts at the Lewin Group estimate that more than 100 million Americans would end up on the government rolls, 88 million having been dropped from employer plans.

So, for at least 88 million workers, even though they like their current insurance, they're not going to be able to keep it - and there's nothing they can do about it.

Many seniors, too, would experience a major change in their coverage. The president recently promised that his health-care reform is "not going to reduce Medicare benefits." But the House Democrats' plan would do just that.

It would cut $500 billion from Medicare and spend it on the new Washington-run health-care system. Millions of seniors would lose their private Medicare plan, known as Medicare Advantage - a plan 317,000 Arizonans use. Those who do get to keep their plan would experience an increase in premiums and a reduction in benefits.

Medicare already faces serious fiscal problems. We should focus on strengthening it and restoring its solvency, rather than raiding it to pay for another government program.

Both seniors and private policy holders will begin to experience delays and denial of care. It is impossible to cut Medicare by $500 billion without reducing care to seniors.

And numerous provisions in the bills would, likewise, lead to rationing for the privately insured - just as privately-insured patients in countries with government-run care have their care rationed. So, a patient in need of a hip replacement, dental procedure, MRI, or any other procedure could face a long, painful wait period, or be denied treatment completely.

Finally, let's not forget the devastating consequences of the taxes proposed to pay for the Democrats' health-care plan.

House Democrats would impose a huge new tax that would hit many small businesses - creators of two-thirds of new jobs - during an economic recovery. This is in addition to a tax increase scheduled for 2011 under President Obama's budget.

As the Wall Street Journal writes, one implication of the proposed tax hike is that America's "successful small businesses would pay higher tax rates than the Fortune 500, and, for that matter, than most companies in the world."

These taxes will mean the elimination of jobs and lower wages, crippling economic growth.

Last week, two administration officials refused to rule out direct tax increases on middle-income Americans. While the White House later backtracked, the administration's spending plans are so ambitious that it's difficult, if not impossible, to pay for them entirely with tax increases on small businesses and wealthy Americans. And if middle-income tax increases don't cover the administration's spending plans, what's next?

Everyone in Washington wants health-care reform, but it's clear Democrats' plans will only create a new set of problems. We should instead focus on innovative solutions that fix what's broken in our current system. That's the road to real reform.

Sen. Jon Kyl is the Senate Republican Whip and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees.

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