Brownback React to President Obama's Health Care Address

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today responded to President Obama's address to the United States Congress about health care reform.

"This evening, President Obama laid out to the United States Congress his plan for health care reform," said Brownback. "While I commend the President for addressing this important issue, I have serious concerns that his proposals will not accomplish the reforms that are needed in the health care system. Time and again, as I traveled the state during the past month, I heard my fellow Kansans express their concerns about the health care proposals currently being considered. Public support for these proposals has eroded as the American people have learned the details of these plans. The costs are too high, the consequences are too serious, and the outcomes are too doubtful."

Brownback has proposed several ideas to lower health care costs:

• Tort reform will help bring down costs for all patients. While patients should maintain a basic right to pursue legal action when medical malpractice occurs, there should be some limitations on pain and suffering damages. Doctors practicing defensive medicine to avoid lawsuits results in billions of dollars in unnecessary tests, referrals, and prescriptions. Malpractice insurance costs have skyrocketed, and those costs are passed on to patients in the form of more expensive care.

• Level the playing field for the self-employed and others who purchase their own plans. Currently, only employer-based benefits are exempt from personal income taxes. Allowing everyone the ability to purchase health insurance with pre-tax dollars will make insurance more affordable for millions of people. Additionally, this would put more power in the hands of the individual to choose his or her own coverage. Even those who have employer-based coverage could then shop around for a better deal, and still receive the same tax benefits they currently receive with their employer-based coverage.

• Allow consumers to purchase insurance across state lines to give them greater choice and the flexibility to choose a plan that best suits their specific needs and budget.

• Price transparency will give consumers the ability to know the costs of their care before they get the bill. This will allow them to shop around for the best prices for certain procedures.

• Tax-free health savings accounts put control back in the hands of patients to decide how best to spend their health care dollars.

• Fully refundable tax credits for health insurance premiums would provide support for those who are unable to afford insurance.

• Make it easier for those with pre-existing conditions to obtain insurance coverage through multi-state risk sharing pools.

Brownback continued, "Certainly, there are problems with our current system; nearly everyone agrees change is needed to lower costs and improve coverage for the uninsured. However, there are proposals that will accomplish these goals without resulting in a government takeover of the health care industry. I have long advocated for incremental changes that would improve the lives of millions of Americans."