Fairfield County Citizens Express Their Concern Regarding Government-Run National Healthcare in Record Numbers

September 11, 2009

The ongoing national healthcare debate is generating an historic level of public interest. More than 2,000 people attended several area public forums in the past two weeks because they are concerned about the volume and magnitude of new, expensive programs coming out of Washington. Constituents are contacting me in record numbers to express their worry that new federal programs, including universal healthcare, threaten our children’s future because they will not be able to afford the taxes to pay for them.

We should be concerned. Recently, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted that our federal government will have a $7 trillion deficit by 2019, while the President’s Office of Management and Budget is predicting a $9 trillion deficit for that same time period. According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, national spending on medical care in 2008 reached $2.4 trillion – almost double the current $1.58 trillion federal deficit. Medicare alone could account for 20% of the federal budget by 2016.

Many of the people I met at area healthcare forums said the federal government should focus on solving the nation’s fiscal crisis before creating expensive programs like universal healthcare. Understandably, they are worried about the cost to families and small businesses. They want to know whether a national government-run program will result in rationing, reduce the quality of healthcare, and limit access.

Perhaps, our national leaders should spend more time talking to my constituents. Many who attended area public forums suggested creating a separate, private insurance program for the 10 to 30 million Americans who need it. They believe that it makes more sense to use our national resources to help the uninsured, rather than dismantle the entire healthcare system. Other suggestions offered at these forums included: promoting competition by permitting insurance companies to sell healthcare policies across state lines; allowing people to take their healthcare plans with them when they leave jobs; protecting beneficiaries from losing their healthcare due to pre-existing conditions; better utilizing electronic medical records and other technology; addressing the costs of medical malpractice insurance and lawsuits; and reducing the number of healthcare related state and federal mandates.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to winning widespread support for federal healthcare reform is a lack of trust. Would people be allowed to keep their doctors and existing insurance under a national healthcare system? Would employers stop offering insurance? Would private insurance companies be able to compete with a government-run program? Would a government-run program provide us with the same level of high-quality medical care that we now enjoy? How would a national government-run healthcare system address end-of-life issues?

Clearly, it is time for the federal government to address healthcare funding issues. However, it is important that the solutions appropriately address the problems in a cost-effective, responsible manner that does not tamper with the system that has brought us the very best medical services in the world.