In a lengthy statement issued today, Rep. Heath Shuler explains why he cast his vote against the sweeping health-care reform legislation passed last night.
In the statement, Shuler praises some of the bill’s restrictions on insurance companies, but asserts that it doesn’t do enough. He adds that he believes the legislation will increase costs, and that he favors a more incremental approach, leading him to vote against the bill.
Shuler was one of 35 Democrats, including two others from North Carolina’s delegation, to join all Republican representatives in voting against the bill, which passed 219-212.
The full announcement is below.
— David Forbes, staff writer
Last night, the House of Representatives passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a narrow margin. The bill, H.R. 3590, is expected to be signed into law by the President at which point the reconciliation package will be sent to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate passes the reconciliation passage by a simple majority with no changes, it will be presented to the President for consideration.
Since the commencement of the health care debate, many of you have shared your views with me. I have received tens of thousands of letters, phone calls and emails from you and I have met with countless others, including patients, doctors, hospital administrators, home health providers, free clinic workers, children, nurses, economists and small business owners. Through this process it has become clear to me that the majority of you are supportive of health care reform, but you do not think that this bill is the right solution.
I voted against the bill because I felt that we could do better. Now that it has passed and will become law, I look forward to working with my colleagues to address specific areas that need improvement. I assure you that I will continue to work as hard as I can to fix our nation’s health care system in a fiscally responsible and compassionate way.
Certain aspects of this bill are beneficial and necessary. I support eliminating the authority insurance companies currently have to cancel coverage when an individual falls ill or to exclude altogether those with preexisting conditions. I also support the measure that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
While I support some provisions, I am concerned about how other parts of this bill will affect families, small businesses and our economy. One of the most significant cost savings of this legislation is a colossal $500 billion in cuts to Medicare, which millions of seniors across the country and 147,000 seniors in Western North Carolina rely upon for their health care coverage. If there is a half-a-trillion dollars worth of savings to be found in Medicare, we should utilize it to stabilize this already insolvent program rather than to create a new entitlement that will certainly face the same sustainability challenges. I cannot in good conscience vote to expand current entitlements or create new ones without ensuring that the proper mechanisms are in place to meet our current obligations of $38 trillion in Medicare benefits over the next 75 years.
This legislation also places a sizable burden on our small businesses through mandates that will require small businesses to purchase health insurance for their employees or face fines of up to $2,000 per employee. Furthermore, much of the $500 billion in new taxes created to pay for this bill will be put on the backs of our nation’s already-struggling small business owners.
This bill should have done more to rein in the insurance industry. It does not do enough to prevent rate hikes and permits insurance companies to evade competition through the same anti-trust exemptions that they enjoy today. Additionally, because the legislation guarantees that millions more consumers will have to buy insurance, we are literally pumping money into the very companies that have helped create the problems we are trying to solve, while getting little in return.
To truly reduce our spending on health care we must target reform toward the root cause of the skyrocketing costs. This legislation fails to address the reality of what creates cost – sickness. This legislation does not do enough to promote accountable care, the idea that health care providers should be rewarded for keeping patients healthy and out of the doctor’s office. This bill fails to address the way that we provide health care in this country; it merely adds more people to a broken, inefficient, and wasteful system.
In Washington, this debate has become more about winning or losing a political battle than promoting sound and effective policy. Last year, a number of Republican lawmakers made their intentions clear with the statement, “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” I find this politically motivated, obstructionist position offensive and detrimental to America’s future. I also believe that the Democrats would have been better served by enacting common-sense incremental change rather than pushing through a huge bill that mushroomed into something flawed and unwieldy. The belief that we have a moral obligation to help those who are less fortunate encapsulates why I am a Democrat, however it’s time that we start working together and put America above our political party affiliations.
This was a very difficult decision, but in the end I could not support this legislation as it currently is written. I evaluated all available information, listened to the people of Western North Carolina, and prayed about this vote. I know that many of you disagree with my decision, but I did what I believe was right for Western North Carolina and our country. As your Congressman, you can always be confident in my unwavering commitment to our community and this great nation. I remain committed to finding solutions to our broken system and will continue to do so for as long as I represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives.