One Year on the Health Subcommittee

Joe Pitts, Dec 16, 2011

Last year at this time, my colleagues appointed me to lead the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. After years of hard work in the House, it is an honor to be able to lead a subcommittee that is doing important work improving health care for all Americans.

The federal governmentís involvement in health care was already significant before last yearís new health care law, the Affordable Care Act. Now government is even more firmly in the driver seat for one-sixth of the American economy.

The federal government now has the power to micromanage insurance plans nationwide. House Republicans ran on a promise to repeal the law and early this year we passed legislation to do so.

However, Congress is divided between the parties, and the current U.S. Senate did not agree with the House. Our failure to repeal early this year did not end the debate. Indeed, the Health Subcommittee has continued to reveal why repeal is necessary. We need health reform that improves the quality, availability, and cost of medical care.

Instead of saving the promised $2,500 per family per year, the new law is raising the cost of care. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Americans in the individual insurance market will pay $2,100 more in 2016 because of the ACA. The chief actuary for Medicare and Medicaid has stated that the new taxes in the law will lead to higher premiums for all patients.

This spring, I traveled to Harrisburg and held a Health Subcommittee hearing in the state capitol. We heard from state officials about the dramatically increased burden on the states because of ACAís Medicaid requirements. While Medicaid is already 30 percent of the state budget, it will grow to more than 60 percent in the next few years. Pennsylvania taxpayers will be responsible for paying the bill.

Many of the law's provisions, including the unconstitutional mandate to purchase insurance donít go into effect until 2014. There is time to undo some of the damage, but it is running short.

Should the Supreme Court strike down portions of the law, the Health Subcommittee will be ready to pass constitutional reforms that give Americans more freedom to determine their medical care.

This year, the Health Subcommittee looked at how fixing our medical liability system could save $55.6 billion in defensive medicine costs. We also looked closer at how allowing competition across state lines could allow millions more Americans to purchase health insurance. There are better ways to reform health care in America, and Iím going to continue fighting for them no matter how the court rules.

My work on the Health Subcommittee has not been strictly partisan. I look for every opportunity to work with Democrats on the panel. Earlier this year, I worked closely with Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) on legislation to reauthorize an important program to help train pediatricians. The House passed this legislation in the fall.

Weíve also focused this year on how federal health agencies can affect American jobs. Medical device manufacturers pay millions of dollars in fees to have the Food and Drug Administration evaluate their products. However, this process is less than transparent and can change underneath a companyís feet. Some investors are even moving capital to overseas competitors because of the regulatory climate here in the U.S.

We need to bring more certainty to this process, for patients waiting for cures and for Americans looking for jobs. Next year, the Health Subcommittee will spend much of its time reauthorizing and creating FDA programs to approve medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Safety must be the number one priority, but we donít need to send companies through a labyrinth of red tape to keep patients safe.

Legislating in a divided Congress isnít easy. The political parties have a very different view about the role of government in American lives and especially in the health sector.

I believe that robust competition and transparency can bring down the cost of health care while maintaining the excellent quality of care of Americans deserve. As the Health Subcommittee continues its work over the coming year, we are going to put forward common-sense proposals and reforms that make our nation healthier and more prosperous.

Congressman Joe Pitts, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania's 16th Congressional District, which includes Lancaster County and parts of Chester County and Berks County.

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