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Upton weighs in on health care

Published 9:11am Thursday, July 30, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

Though there are several topics demanding the attention of officials in Washington – one is dominating debate.

Health care reform.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee continued to look at the proposed legislation Wednesday, which seeks to provide health care to uninsured Americans and help those who face the threat of losing their coverage in the event of unemployment.
Senate leaders said a final vote would not come before the August recess.

President Barack Obama’s initial hope was to see a new and comprehensive health care bill finalized by the end of this month.

“There are a number of proposals out there,” said Michigan’s 6th District congressman Fred Upton, earlier this week. Word around the capital on Tuesday, he said, was that the Senate was not planning to move a bill through until after Labor Day.

Upton said for his part, he “wants reform. But I don’t want to necessarily rush it.”
Legislation has been getting a lot of attention and criticism.

The current initiative seems to attack the issue of healthcare on a multitude of levels, it’s affordability and accessibility for small businesses, ending the practice of screening for pre-existing conditions and providing coverage to those who currently can’t afford it.
But there are plenty of questions that surround the initial legislation as well, including how much a restructure of national healthcare would cost taxpayers and whether or not the goal is achieved through efficient reform.

Upton said he wants physicians and patients to be the deciders in the matter of their healthcare and he’s happy about the move to stop allowing providers to factor in pre-existing conditions and one much discussed aspect of the current legislation: the opportunity for those who are happy with the coverage they have, to keep it.
“One of the things that I do hear that the president has said is people won’t lose their coverage if they like it,” he said. “I want people to have choices.”

He also said he agrees with the opinion that the government needs to “go after fraud and abuse.”

The White House released a report last week touting that the plan could be advantageous for small businesses, a sector the report states fights with higher insurance costs often resulting in business owners being unable to provide any insurance for their employees at all.

Upton disagrees.

“Sadly the plan that we’re seeing removes incentives for employers to provide insurance,” he said.  Rather, the legislation “sets up a whopping new bureaucracy.”
Upton, a Republican and his party aren’t the only critics of the reform. “Blue Dog” Democrats, have also been fighting supporters, drawing a “line in the sand that they’re not crossing,” Upton said.

The Michigan congressman estimated that 250 billion would be added to the deficit as a result of the current proposed legislation, with spending increases of eight percent and a five percent raise in taxes resulting in “a larger wedge of unfunded programs.”
The current legislation estimates that 45 million people would be given the benefit of healthcare coverage – Upton said the idea that reform would insure all of America’s uninsured is simply not true.

“Under their plan, that doesn’t happen,” he said. Upton said 17 million Americans would still be without health insurance.

Though a finalized healthcare reform is not likely to come by the end of the week, Upton, just minutes from returning to the floor, seemed hopeful and focused.

“There’s a good number of things we can do in a bi-partisan way that needs to be done,” he said.

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