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Protecting Access To Healthcare Act

Rep. Betty McCollum

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Mr. Chair, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 5, the so-called HEALTH Act. This misguided legislation undermines Medicare, raises deficits and restricts states' rights.

Last year, House Republicans voted to end the Medicare guarantee for seniors. Fortunately, Senate Democrats blocked this dangerous proposal from becoming law. Now, House Republicans are trying again to dismantle the program in their fiscal year 2013 budget proposal.

The Republican proposal would end the Medicare guarantee by pushing future seniors into the private insurance market with a voucher that fails to keep up with the rising costs of health care. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Republican voucher proposal could force future seniors to pay $6,400 more for health care every year. Republicans claim that shifting rising health care costs onto future seniors will save billions of dollars. What do House Republicans proposed do with those savings? Reinvest in Medicare? Increase funding for education? Reduce the national debt? Remarkably, House Republicans are proposing to take Medicare dollars from future seniors to give a new $150,000 tax cut to the wealthiest individuals and corporations in America today. House Republicans introduced H.R. 5 to distract attention from their radical plans to dismantle Medicare and give more handouts to billionaires.

H.R. 5 repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) created by the Affordable Care Act. IPAB was established in the new health care law to protect Medicare's long-term sustainability. The Board will do this by keeping program costs at a manageable level and preventing special interests from delaying implementation of reforms that strengthen Medicare.

IPAB will be composed of fifteen non-political experts, including doctors, consumers and senior advocates recommended by Congressional leaders, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. If Medicare costs exceed certain targets, these experts will make recommendations to Congress on ways to stabilize Medicare by reforming payment and delivery systems. Congress retains the power to reject these recommendations and pass their own reforms to reduce Medicare spending. IPAB experts are prohibited by law from recommending changes to Medicare that ration care, increase seniors' costs, reduce benefits or restrict eligibility. IPAB does not harm Medicare or seniors, but eliminating IPAB would weaken Medicare and raise the deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office found that repealing IPAB will add $3 billion to deficits over the next ten years. To offset this cost, House Republicans impose new federal rules to legal cases involving medical malpractice, product liability, health insurance and related issues. The broad provisions of this bill would offer new protections to drug companies, nursing homes, insurance companies and HMOs. These new restrictions would severely limit a patient's ability to recover damages suffered as a result of medical negligence, defective products or irresponsible insurance products. Every year, approximately 200,000 severe medical injuries are caused by negligence. Only seventeen percent of these patients ever file a malpractice claim. Patients who do seek legal recourse may not obtain full and just compensation for their injuries due to the caps on awards imposed by H.R. 5.

The National Conference of State Legislatures strongly opposes this federal mandate on states arguing that federal medical malpractice legislation is unnecessary. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office analysis of H.R. 5 noted the new medical malpractice caps ``might cause providers to exercise less caution, resulting in an increase in the number of medical injuries attributable to negligence.''

I urge my colleagues to reject these extreme and unprecedented changes mandated to state medical malpractice laws that will result in less justice for victims, less patient safety, and less flexibility for states to make their own laws.

Further, I urge my colleagues to stand up for seniors and protect Medicare by opposing H.R. 5.