HIGHLAND VILLAGE — U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, told constituents Thursday that health care reform, as it is currently written, won’t work and its problems must be dealt with regardless of who is elected in November.
Burgess addressed about 200 people during a joint breakfast meeting of the Denton, Flower Mound, Highland Village and Lewisville chambers of commerce as part of a full schedule of appearances in District 26 this week.
Burgess, a physician, serves on the Congressional Health Care Caucus and has written a book, Doctor in the House, (2011, WND Books) about the problems he sees with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. He told the crowd of business leaders that the future effect of the individual mandate to buy health insurance — upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer — remains unclear.
Current estimates of the demand for federal subsidies to help people buy insurance may be too low, he said.
By 2014, nearly everyone will be required to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Federal subsidies will be available to people with low incomes to buy coverage and comply with the mandate.
In addition to previously uninsured people entering the marketplace, some businesses may abandon group coverage for their employees — pushing their employees to buy coverage in health insurance exchanges, too, Burgess said.
“We may see a drain on the Treasury unlike anything we’ve seen before,” Burgess said.
Health care reform did little to address the cost of care, Burgess said.
Chamber members wrote questions on cards, several of which Burgess answered at the end of his address. Questions showed concern over the shrinking number of health insurance companies and the changing landscape of how health care is delivered. One writer questioned whether health care would be rationed based on a person’s age or disease, but Burgess said there was nothing in health care reform that called for health care rationing.
Burgess’ staff put several handouts on the table explaining some of the issues, including a new unearned income tax on certain home sales that will go to Medicare. Most homeowners will not be affected by the tax when they sell their primary residence, Burgess said. But he cautioned real estate professionals to get help with the new law.
“This is tricky, dangerous stuff — don’t put your business or employees at risk,” Burgess said.
Currently, Congress is in summer recess. Burgess faces challenges from both Democrat David Sanchez and Libertarian Mark Boler in the November election.
Health care reform has its good and bad points, Sanchez said, but officials should not lose sight of the importance that everyone needs insurance.
“Health care needs to be like our car insurance — everyone can get insured,” Sanchez said.
He disagreed with Burgess and others who call for partial or full repeal of the law, saying that access to health care should not be a privilege for only some people.
Furthermore, if people can get health care for problems before they become serious and expensive to fix, the real cost of health care reform may change, Sanchez said.
In an interview with the Denton Record-Chronicle Tuesday, Burgess said he believes that needed changes to health care reform could be easier if Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican Party nominee, wins the presidential election and the Republican Party wins more seats in Congress.
But even if President Obama is re-elected, Burgess said he couldn’t wash his hands of the problems created by the reform legislation.
Addressing them so far has been difficult, since federal agencies don’t want to talk to anyone in the legislative branch right now, he said.
“We shouldn’t be allowed the political cover of a lame-duck session,” Burgess said. “Someone needs to prepare to work with the White House on this.”
“It could be career-ending for me,” he added.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .