With the start of the new year and the 112th Congress, members of the House of Representatives have a fresh opportunity to examine and discuss the issues confronting our nation. Leadership in the House will change hands from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, and with this we will undoubtedly see a shift in priorities.
While Northern Virginia has for the most part withstood the national economic downturn – maintaining an unemployment rate half that of the national average – many other parts of our commonwealth and the nation continue to struggle mightily. In the last election, the public made clear that our main focus in Congress should be to get the economy moving and create jobs.
But the first priority of the new Republican leadership is not job growth or economic improvement. Rather they are seeking to re-litigate past legislative fights by pushing for the repeal of the health care reform legislation passed last year.
In March, President Obama signed into law historic legislation that puts the interests of the American people ahead of the health insurance companies’ bottom line. Key improvements to our system include:
• Children can remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until the age of 26.
• Insurers are no longer allowed to drop people when they get sick.
• Children and adults with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied coverage.
• Seniors now receive a 50% discount for brand-name drugs in the ‘donut hole’ coverage gap and the ‘donut hole’ will eventually close.
Health insurance companies are required to spend 80% or more of premiums on health care, rather than putting them into the pockets of high-paid executives.
Expand coverage to 32 million more Americans.
Repealing health care would not only remove popular and needed provisions like the ones mentioned above, it also undermines efforts to address our exploding national debt. In order for our nation and its economy to fully recover, we must address the root causes of the current economic situation. This includes tackling our nation’s overwhelming expenditures on health care which totals 16% of our GDP. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has determined that the health care law will actually reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years. Economists have projected that this reduction will result in the creation of 1.2 to four million new jobs. A victory by health care opponents to repeal this hard fought victory for the American people would only serve to push our country further into the red, restricting much needed job growth.
The election ended two months ago. Now it’s time for an end to the political theatrics and a beginning to the task of governing. Congress should work to fully revive our economy and tackle our fiscal situation with smart policies, rather than resurrect old political battles that only delay action that will get the country moving forward.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.