Senator Roberts: HELP Health Care Bill is Flawed; Will Ration Care, Raise Taxes, Kill Jobs

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts today voted against a partisan $2 trillion health care bill in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee because the bill does not improve or increase access to quality health care for the majority of Americans and may actually harm those it intends to help with tax increases and rationing of care. The bill was approved on a party-line vote 13-10.

"Since the true cost of this bill is approximately $2 trillion," Senator Roberts said. "We must own up to the American public about the tradeoffs that threaten a health care system that polls tell us currently has a 77% satisfaction rate. In this bill, those are higher taxes, cuts to Medicare, and a public plan that will cause the eventual rationing of care. All of this and 34 million American will still be uninsured.

"This bill fails to honor the promises President Obama has made to the American people, that they can keep their insurance if they like it, that it will reduce health care costs, that it will not increase the deficit. We can, and should do better."

During the Committee’s mark-up of the legislation, Roberts fought to include amendments to prevent federal health subsidies from being funded through higher taxes on employers, higher taxes on individuals and families, or through cuts to Medicare. All three were defeated by a party-line vote.

Committee Democrats also blocked Roberts’ amendments to ensure providers in the public plan would receive market-based reimbursement - an area where Medicare fails - rather than government price controls, and an effort to point out a government run plan is completely unnecessary to achieve increased quality and decreased costs by using the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, the plan members of Congress use, as an example. This plan has no public option.

The Committee did approve three other Roberts amendments including the following provisions to:

  • Prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from requiring private health insurers to deny payment or coverage for health care items or services based on the results of comparative effectiveness research, or based on any other source;
  • Require the Secretary to ensure that, whatever she determines the definition of "essential health benefits" to be, that those benefits will not be denied to any individual who wants them based on their age, expected length of life, present or predicted disability, degree of medical dependency, or quality of life;
  • Insert a new requirement into the Gateway certification section which asks the Gateways to, in addition to their other certification duties in regards to participating health insurance plans, certify that participating plans have not established a pattern or practice of denying otherwise covered benefits to individuals based on their age, expected length of life, present or predicted disability, degree of medical dependency, or quality of life.

"I am pleased these modifications are a part of the bill," Roberts said. "But unfortunately, many other reforms are needed before I can support such a health care overhaul."

"As currently passed by HELP, this bill jeopardizes the health care system with which 77% of Americans are happy, and puts the government-- not patients and doctors-- at the center of decisions about treatment," Roberts said. "There are better ways to reform a system so important to our economy and our well being."

The Senate Committee on Finance, of which Roberts is also a member, is set to consider a different health care reform proposal as early as this week.