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A Threat To Our Health Care

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Walberg) for 5 minutes.

Rep. Tim Walberg

legislator photo

Madam Speaker, this Friday, March 23, marks the second anniversary of President Obama's health care law after 2 years. It's clear the law has already left more victims in its path than people it was meant to help. And unfortunately, along with the 20 million employees who will probably lose employer-sponsored health care, it may be our seniors who take the hardest hit.

Millions of seniors and disabled Americans rely on Medicare, yet the program is in danger. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, with the baby boomer generation about to retire, if nothing is done to the program, the program will be bankrupt in 10 years.

Instead of making Medicare stronger through transparent and responsible reform, the President has decided to cut more than $500 billion from the program, money which will then be used to fund his new health care law.

If taking nearly half a trillion dollars from the already crippled program weren't bad enough, the President has handpicked a special panel to slash away at the program even more. He knows our country is facing a budget shortfall. Instead of implementing responsible and transparent reforms, the President wants to take away benefits from Medicare recipients to fund his agenda for new entitlements.

The panel, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, is a group of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats who will essentially be given power to ration care and even deny seniors lifesaving treatments. Its members are not required to hold public hearings or disclose their meetings. Their salaries will be paid directly out of trust funds used to pay Medicare beneficiaries' health care claims.

Worse yet, doctors and patients can not challenge the IPAB's decision in court. Without a three-fifths majority in both Chambers, Congress has no power to change decisions. While this select group rakes in the perks, it will be the seniors left holding the short end of the stick.

The health care law--and IPAB in particular--will threaten their access to quality care. Medicare is already known for its low reimbursement rates. Physicians receive about 20 percent less from Medicare than private health plans, forcing many to stop accepting patients just to stay in business. Seniors will be left with fewer options, and they may even be told they can no longer see their own doctors.

That's why, when I talk to seniors in my district, they are scared of this law. They're worried about being left with fewer options; they are worried about not being able to see their own doctors; and they are worried about the government cutting even more from the program. It's not just in my district where this concern is prevalent. According to a recent nationwide poll, 60 percent of our Nation's seniors have an unfavorable view of the law.

Access to quality care for seniors should be a top priority and will remain so with me. I believe health care decisions should be made by patients, families, and their doctors, and not by bureaucrats in Washington, who are burdening seniors and future generations with less choice, fewer services, and more debt.

House Republicans remain committed to strengthening and reforming Medicare to protect today's seniors and to make sure the program is still there for the next generation.