Sen. Max Baucus

Healthcare reform is not just a moral imperative; it's an economic necessity, and the numbers speak for themselves.

In 2007, our economy lost more than $200 billion as a result of the broken healthcare system. Annual healthcare spending is outpacing economic growth by an average 2.4 percent per year. Businesses could see their healthcare costs double-from $429.8 billion to $885.1 billion-within 10 years. And the cost of the average family employer-sponsored health insurance plan will reach $24,000 by 2016-meaning at least half of American households would need to spend more than 45 percent of their income to buy health insurance.

Our healthcare system is in crisis. And it's not just a crisis for the uninsured. It's not just about health. It's about our economy. It's about each and every one of us. So we must act, and we must act now.

Americans understand this. President Obama understands this. Advocacy groups-and even the insurance companies-understand this. If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that the status quo just won't cut it.

That's why the Senate Finance Committee has been working diligently on both sides of the aisle to fix our broken system and deliver a bill to the president's desk that does three things: lowers costs in the long run, improves quality, and guarantees every American access to high-quality, affordable health care.

Those are three goals we must meet. Guaranteeing access does little if we cannot also guarantee quality. At the same time, ensuring coverage will make the insurance markets function properly, and costs will go down for all policyholders. And we will surely not be able to sustain our system or see a return on our investment unless we lower costs significantly. Everything in health care is related. We cannot address it piecemeal. We need comprehensive healthcare reform for America.

And that reform must be uniquely American. We are not Europe. We are not Canada. We are America, and we need an American solution. It has to be a partnership of public and private players. Healthcare reform will guarantee choice for all Americans and ensure that those who are happy with the healthcare coverage they have now can keep it. We will build on the employer-based system we have today and on safety net programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to ensure all Americans have healthcare coverage.

Reform must create incentives for healthcare providers to focus on delivering the best care and closely coordinating with a patient's other doctors and providers. Reform should invest in the resources healthcare providers need to deliver care, such as cutting-edge technology and up-to-the-minute research and information. And it should work to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicare program.

Reform must create a competitive insurance market where health plans compete on price and quality rather than on the ability to segment risk and discriminate against individuals with pre-existing health conditions. And it must make purchasing coverage easier and more understandable so that all consumers can purchase coverage.

Right now 46 million Americans are without insurance and 25 million more don't have enough coverage to get the care they need. That's more than 70 million mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters largely unable to meet one of their most basic needs-health care. And as health costs skyrocket, more and more Americans worry about losing their health insurance each day. Parents worry they won't be able to take their kids to the doctor; businesses worry they won't be able to provide coverage for their employees and won't be able to stay competitive in the global marketplace. America is the only developed country in the world without health insurance for all citizens. Yet our spending is out of control, and still our quality is lacking. Americans deserve access to high-quality, affordable health care. What's more, our economic recovery depends on it.

Reform is essential to our nation's health and our economic stability. If we fail to act, we will double our current national expenditure on health care from $2 trillion to $4 trillion in less than 10 years, the cost of caring for Americans without insurance will continue to be shifted to those who do, American businesses will lose jobs and become less competitive, and our nation will go further into debt.

The cost of inaction in both human and financial terms is much too great to bear. Healthcare reform is a moral imperative and an economic necessity. The time to act is now.


Sen. Max Baucus (D- Mont.) is chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, a panel on which he has served for 26 years. The committee has jurisdiction over taxes, Social Security, Medicare, healthcare  programs such as the Children's Health Insurance Program, and international trade. The Finance Committee is also responsible for examining all budget and tax plans that come before Congress. He has cowritten and passed such major legislation as the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, the Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. He was elected to the Montana state legislature in 1973, to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974, and to the U.S. Senate in 1978.

Photo above taken by Carolyn Bunce during the unveiling of Sen. Baucus's white paper Call to Action: Health Reform 2009, Nov. 12, 2008.

Publication Date: Wednesday, July 01, 2009

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