The most important issue facing our country today is health care reform. Like many of my colleagues, I believe that health care reform should be done in a careful, constructive, and bipartisan way. Unfortunately, the Democrats’ health care reform proposals meet none of those standards. That is why we are seeing Americans across the country voice their concerns in town hall meetings and in letters and phone calls to Congress.
Americans from every walk of life know that the Democrats’ plan will lead to more government, more taxes, and more expensive health care. Even the Congressional Budget Director advises against this approach, stating that the Administration’s proposal fails to make the fundamental changes needed to reign in skyrocketing costs of government health care programs. I am particularly concerned about the impact of this legislation on the fiscal health of our country and the cost burden it will place on our small businesses and their employees.
The Administration’s proposal contains tax penalties and fees on small businesses that are not able to offer health insurance. To pay these added costs, many small businesses could be forced to decrease workers wages, hire fewer employees, implement layoffs, or cut into other benefits. And some employers will have to pay a tax even if they already provide health insurance! A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that roughly 3 in 5 small businesses will be hit with new taxes under the Democrats’ proposal.
Imposing new taxes on small businesses promises to wreak havoc on our economy. By raising taxes on some small businesses as high as 45 percent, they will be paying 10 percent more than what major corporations pay – and the U.S. corporate rate is among the highest in the world.
Instead of giving this power to the government, we should be helping employers provide more affordable health insurance options to their employees. We especially need these options for Texans. Texas ranks in the bottom five states for adults who receive health insurance coverage through their employers.
For this reason, I co-sponsored the Small Business Health Plans Act, which will make it easier for small businesses to purchase more affordable health insurance. Under our bill, small companies will be allowed to form insurance pools across state lines, expanding negotiating power and health insurance options for small businesses.
This legislation will not only lower health care costs for small businesses; it will also increase the number of Americans with health insurance. But this bill should be part of a larger solution.
To that end, we must empower patients with the freedom and ability to make informed choices. All Texans should have the flexibility to choose the health care plan that is best for themselves, their families, and their pocketbooks.
That’s why I am also an original co-sponsor of a bill that will allow all Americans to deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premiums as long as they purchase qualified private health coverage. Just as tax benefits are given to employers for providing health insurance, tax benefits should be available to those who purchase coverage from the individual market. While research shows a tax credit would provide a greater incentive for those seeking health insurance, an above-the-line deduction is a positive start.
The solution to health care issues is not to give more power to the government; the solution is to give more power to the American people and small businesses. They deserve a system that lives up to the idea that America has the best health care in the world.
We should reject the Administration and Democratic Leadership’s hasty, costly, and poorly crafted legislation. We should be working toward a bipartisan plan grounded in the principles of choice, competition, patients’ rights, and reducing costs. I will not support a plan that fails to encompass these principles, and I encourage my colleagues to stand likewise.
Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas.