Wednesday, August 5, 2009

OP-ED by John Barrow in the Savannah Morning News

On Friday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee completed its markup of HR 3200, "America's Affordable Health Choices Act." I received a great deal of feedback from all sides of the issue leading up to my decision to vote against what the committee produced. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss that decision.

As I said in my opening statement at the House Energy and Commerce Committee markup of this bill two weeks ago, "I am committed to passing health care reform that lowers costs and improves quality for all Americans." I'm still committed to that goal, which is why I could not support the bill that came out of the committee this week. The bill does not do enough to bring health care costs under control, and it puts too much of the cost of covering the uninsured on the backs of people who are already paying for their own insurance. It also puts too much on the backs of small businesses that can't afford it.

We also don't know how much this plan is going to cost. The Congressional Budget Office was not able to score the bill in time for the vote. As a true fiscal conservative, I could not vote for a program this big without the best estimate of how much it will cost. That also makes it harder to figure out how we're going to pay for it. In the end, reform we can't afford to pay for is reform that can't realistically happen.

These are all reasons why I think it was not wise to rush this bill through the markup process just to get it done before the August District Work Period. The committee, and the whole country, would have benefited from another month to read the entire bill, understand its ramifications, and make the bill better. In the rush to produce something before we left town, we didn't even have time to vote on all of the offered amendments. Instead, we'll vote on the remaining 60 or so amendments when we get back in September, which is when we should have continued working on the bill in its entirety. I can't understand voting on a bill that will be changed by amendments that hadn't been voted on yet.

The good news is this is just one more step in a process that has many more steps to go, and there will be more opportunities to make the bill better. I plan on using my time back home to talk to as many folks as I can to figure out what's best for the folks I represent. Ultimately, my loyalty to the interests of the people of the 12th District of Georgia comes before any party or coalition.

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