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Why Republicans should support health care reform


Why Republicans should support health care reform

by Ray LaHood,0,3364029.story

I’ve been a Republican all my life, when I served in the Illinois legislature, when I worked for members of Congress and when I served in Congress. During the 2008 presidential election, I supported Republican Sen. John McCain. I have always been — and still am — a fiscal conservative, an advocate for a smart, but restrained, government.

For those reasons and others, most people wouldn’t expect me to be an advocate for comprehensive health care reform. But the truth is, I believe there is no bigger issue to solve and no better chance to solve it than now.

If I were still a member of Congress, I would proudly vote for the bill that President Barack Obama is championing and I would urge my colleagues to do the same, not because I don’t believe in fiscal discipline, but because I do.

We do not need to look that far down the road to see the pain that failure to pass health care reform will cause. Americans of every background, class, race and political persuasion are suffering. We have the best health care system in the world, yet more than 40 million Americans lack access to it, a reality that is morally reprehensible. Health care is an essential, as important as food, water and shelter. Those who don’t have it are left without the tools to survive.

In the coming days, Congress has a chance to change that. The bill that will be voted on will reduce the deficit by about $1 trillion over the next two decades, and will reduce waste, fraud and abuse in the health care system. It will slow the rate of growth in health care costs and put America back on the path toward fiscal sustainability.

The bill will give families and small business owners greater control over their own health care. It will expand coverage to more than 31 million Americans and will include tax credits to individuals, families and small businesses, giving them the same choices that members of Congress have to purchase private coverage. It will create state-based exchanges that will bring competition and transparency to insurance markets. And it will put in place common-sense rules of the road to hold insurance companies accountable and end some of the most outrageous practices of the insurance industry.

Never again will people be denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. Never again will insurance companies be able to raise rates unfairly — like the 60 percent hikes expected in Illinois.

While the ultimate vote on health care may not be bipartisan, the ultimate bill certainly is.

There are several Republican ideas in the bill. It allows Americans to buy health insurance across state lines. It increases the bargaining power of small businesses by allowing them to pool together — much like large corporations or labor unions — to bargain for a better insurance rate. It gives states the flexibility to come up with an alternate health care plan, and it gives them resources to reform our tort system by developing new ways to deal with medical malpractice.

I also feel compelled to remind my former colleagues that contrary to what many people have been saying, the bill explicitly prevents federal dollars from being used to fund abortion. It ensures not only that those seeking abortion coverage will be required to pay for it with their own money, but also that their personal money will never be commingled with federal funds. As a former congressman with a 100 percent pro-life voting record, I’m comfortable supporting this bill.

There isn’t one member of Congress who represents a district that is without a health care crisis. There are good, hardworking men and women in every part of this country who work for a living, but not at a business that offers the opportunity to purchase health insurance. On their own, the cost of insurance is just plain out of reach.

During my time in Congress, I was known for reaching across the aisle. I did it not for the sake of bipartisanship alone, but in order to get important things done.

Now, my former colleagues have the opportunity to change the lives of their friends and neighbors for the better by voting for health care reform.

Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, is secretary of transportation in the Obama administration.

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