Congress Must Start Over

March 21, 2010 9:27AM

Justin Owen, director of policy at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, makes a last minute plea for Congress to ditch a government takeover of healthcare and start over. This article originally appeared in Sunday’s Tennessean. by Justin Owen I have closely followed the health-care reform debate in Washington D.C. as it relates to my business and the economy. And while I agree that our health-care system is in dire need of reform and believe that our elected officials have the best of intentions when trying to pass meaningful legislation, they are going down the wrong road. It is time to for Congress to start over on health reform and find a plan that works. It is a fact that America’s health-care system needs fixing for both the millions of people who lack coverage and for the thousands of small-businesses owners who struggle to afford health coverage for their employees. No small-business owner wants to deny their employees health insurance benefits; a health-care plan helps not just employees, but the business owner who offers it. Like a yearly bonus or 401(k), health insurance coverage are all benefits employers use to attract talented people who will be committed to the growth of their business. A government-run health-care plan could destroy employer-sponsored health insurance, potentially impacting coverage for 160 million Americans. That fundamental principle has flown right over the heads of the congressional leaders writing health reform bills. Although they talk a good game about health reform helping small businesses and their employees, every plan that has been put forward thus far will only increase burdens on small-business owners and make it even more difficult to provide health-care benefits. Businesses and taxpayers alike will be forced to pay for new health-care entitlements and the government-run plan through higher fees and taxes. These are costs we can’t afford at a time when our economy is facing real challenges and on the brink of recovery. If one of the goals of health-care reform was to make insurance more affordable and more accessible, this isn’t the way to get there. We need to find ways to let employers provide more insurance coverage for more employees; not make it so expensive that no employer can afford it, much less continue to create jobs and expand. Further, individuals should be given the same incentives to purchase insurance that businesses receive, so that those that work for companies unable to provide insurance still have options. Congress needs to go back to the drawing board on a plan that considers a multifaceted approach to reducing costs and expanding access to care before voting on reform. Now is not the time to jam legislation through the system so legislators can check it off their political list and move onto another item. Health-care reform is a serious issue that requires serious attention with real solutions. Justin Owen is the director of policy and general counsel at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing free market solutions to public policy issues.