At 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 2, a couple hundred local residents were still waiting in line to enter our health care town hall meeting at the Mid-State Fair grounds in Paso Robles. While the meeting started a little late as 1,700 people found their seats, we had a civil and meaningful discussion on places we can move forward to fix health care.
Now it’s time for honest action because Americans know that something needs to be done — reform is needed to control rising costs and increase access to coverage. And from what we all heard at our town hall meeting in Paso Robles, local residents know all too well the limits of health care with little choice of insurance providers and significant doctor shortages in the region.
The town hall was very productive as I was able to listen to a variety of viewpoints. I hope my House colleagues also take the ideas raised at their town halls back to Congress. We have the opportunity to put in place common-sense reforms to fix our broken health care system. I believe these reforms should guarantee that Washington does not come in between you and your doctor, ensure Americans with pre-existing conditions can get insurance, lower health care costs through lawsuit abuse reform, and allow Americans to buy insurance across states lines to increase choice and competition.
Along with real medical liability reform that could reduce over-testing and defensive medicine costs (saving more than $100 billion per year), we should also craft solutions that will expand health care access to the uninsured, agree that if you lose your job, you can keep your insurance, safeguard our families’ freedom to choose the health care they want, and provide a stronger focus on effective prevention and wellness management programs.
During the town hall, I asked everyone to fill out a quick yes or no survey on whether they support the health care reform bill (H.R. 3200) being considered in Congress. More than 1,000 people responded, and resoundingly agreed with the view I promised to take back to Washington — 77.7 percent said “no” to H.R. 3200, 18.2 percent said “yes” and 4.1 percent were undecided. That is why I believe we should start over and look at new ideas. That is why I also asked participants to tell me what solutions they supported through a health care solutions survey. Two solutions that were strongly supported were:
1. To allow small businesses to band together to pool and reduce risk when purchasing health insurance (88 percent supported, 4 percent did not and 8 percent were undecided)
2. To reform costly medical liability abuse to cut down on frivolous lawsuits and duplicative and unnecessary tests (85 percent supported, 5 percent did not and 10 percent were undecided)
In addition to the solutions survey (full results were released in an e-newsletter), I heard many ideas from San Luis Obispo County residents that could lead to real solutions, like reducing insurance fraud. I could not agree more, as some experts estimate that Medicare/Medicaid fraud costs taxpayers $70 billion to $120 billion each year. Now is the time to listen to these common-sense solutions from the American people when it comes to health care reform.
I believe that many San Luis Obispo County residents know we don’t need another Washington “solution” that creates a new trillion-dollar spending program paid for by new taxes and cuts in Medicare. Congress as a whole should instead heed the call of the American people to fix the problems in our health care system through true bipartisan reform.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, represents the 22nd District.