April 6, 2013

Congressman: Health care ‘threatened by Washington’

By Christopher Smith

— The federal government will fail to provide quality health care when the Affordable Care Act goes into full swing next year, says U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-6th District.

Price visited Hamilton Medical Center Friday morning for the first time and said he was reminded of his time as an orthopedic surgeon as he toured the hospital’s labs.

His assessment of Hamilton?

“In spite of challenges that exist, everyone here is doing very good,” he said.

Price said health care is becoming challenging because “it is threatened in so many ways by Washington right now.”

“We’re going to see the new health care system in its full glory in a relatively short time,” he said. “A system the federal government believes is best for you. ... It’s not best for you. What’s best for you is what you and your doctor decides is best for you and not what the government decides is best for you.”

Price’s district lies in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. He lives in Roswell.

Price said he felt a “red flag” last week when the Obama administration announced the new system will have a single health care plan for small business by 2014 and not a variety of plans as several expected.

“I just hope that sends a red flag to others,” he said. “Especially people who don’t realize the federal government can’t do this job ... they will run it and have an outcome that is adverse to the health quality for citizens across this state and the country. Nobody believes one plan fits all and so now the administration is saying they’re not able to do the job right.

“It’s just wrong. That’s not the way health care works best ... that’s not how physicians work best for their patients.”

Another concern Price says he has is the possibility that several employers won’t offer health coverage anymore, forcing several million people to opt for government-controlled exchanges, which provide insurance plans with different ranges of coverage for those without employer benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office projects up to 8 million workers will lose their employer-provided health insurance by 2022.

“I think it’s going to be a whole lot more,” Price said. “I think it will be millions more ... if not over a 100 million people who lose the ability to have the health coverage they want or currently have.

“Why? Because employers are going to say, ‘It doesn’t make economic sense for us to continue to provide health coverage when that cost is going up and up and up.’ When the penalty for not providing health care is less expensive for an employer ... and the individual is required to get health care by law ... people will get forced into an exchange.”

Price is also worried about the impact of the new health care system on the federal budget.

“It’s a budget buster,” he said. “The Congressional Budget Office originally estimated the cost of the legislation is going to be about $950 billion. Now the estimate is over $2 trillion over a 10-year period of time and those are numbers that are not sustainable. Sadly, what that means is the federal government will come in and say, ‘You can’t have the kind of health care you want.’ ... That’s bad news.”

The good news to Price?

“There are wonderful positive solutions out there,” he said. “That’s what some of us in Congress continue to push for. I call it patient-centered health care. That’s where patients and families and doctors are making the health care decisions, not the federal government. That’s where we hope to move Washington over the coming years ... (legislation) that makes it to where Washington isn’t controlling your health care. I think that’s the vision the American people have.”

But congressmen aren’t the only ones who can change the new health care system if they’re unhappy with it next year, Price said.

“The regular citizen out there needs to recognize that huge changes are coming,” he said. “They need to let their representatives at the state and federal level know that what they want is the greatest number of choices for themselves and their families. The last thing people want or desire is for the federal government to decide what kind of health care they will receive. That’s the message I want to deliver.”