Repealing Obamacare

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 2, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BENISHEK. Tonight, my colleagues and I have come to the floor, both as Members of Congress and physicians, to discuss the urgent need to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Like many of my fellow Members here this evening, I've spent the last decades of my life as a physician, a surgeon. Unlike our President, I was on the front lines of medicine. I went to medical school in Detroit, Michigan. I did a family practice internship in Flint. I returned to Detroit to do a surgical residency, and then moved to the upper peninsula of Michigan, where for the last 28 years until I took this job, I was taking care of patients in a rural general surgical practice.

I know what it's like to be in a small town where people depend on their local physician, and it's 2 hours in an ambulance to get to the nearest hospital. And the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is affecting rural hospitals to such a degree that many of these hospitals are going to close. And I just want to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, the seriousness of this problem.

It's been a pleasure being a surgeon. It's a pleasure being here in Congress. As a matter of fact, sometimes patients of mine still call the congressional office inquiring about scheduling a case. One of the very reasons I ran for Congress was because I felt those with real health care experience needed to contribute to the national discussion on health care reform. Tonight, along with other members of the Doctors Caucus, I'd like to dispel some of the myths associated with the President's health care bill.

It's time to set the record straight. It isn't enough to just say this bill must be repealed, we must tell you why it has to be repealed, explain to you the really bad aspects of this bill. I'm proud to say that one of my first votes as a Member of Congress was to repeal it. Tonight, we're going to go through some of the provisions of the bill which make it so onerous.

While I disagree with the President's health care bill for a number of reasons, I'm particularly appalled at the recent regulation issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services as a result of the bill, requiring all employers, even if they have a religious or moral objection, to offer health insurance that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.

I offer for the Record an excerpt from a letter from Bishop Sample of the Catholic Diocese of Marquette, one of my constituents. Here is a quote from Bishop Sample's letter:

In so ruling, the Obama administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our conscience or drop health care coverage for our employees and suffer the penalties for doing so.

The Obama administration's sole concession was to give our institutions 1 year to comply. We cannot, we will not comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.

Mr. Speaker, as a fellow Catholic and a physician, I agree with Bishop Sample. It's my belief that the government has no right to mandate that employers purchase health insurance for their employees in the

first place. But this law is made even worse by demanding that those who support life, regardless of their particular religion, provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.

Mr. Speaker, Federal conscience laws have existed since 1973 and have protected many health care providers from discrimination due to religious and moral values. Unfortunately, President Obama's health care bill contains no language protecting the conscience of health care providers.

I recently cosponsored H.R. 1179, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which was introduced by my colleague, Mr. Fortenberry of Nebraska. If signed into law, this bill would amend the Affordable Care Act to permit a health plan to decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor of the plan without suffering consequences. While I and other Members of Congress continue our efforts to repeal the President's health care plan in its entirety, bills such as H.R. 1179 are necessary while the Affordable Care Act is still law to ensure that the Federal Government does not mandate any American citizen to defy their own religious principles.

I certainly have many other issues with the President's health care bill, but I'd like to give some time to my other colleagues here tonight a chance to speak as well.


Mr. BENISHEK. I thank my colleague from Maryland, and I appreciate your bringing up those great points.

The President's health care act was to allow people to get more access to medicine. And as we've seen from multiple discussions here this evening, with the closure of many small hospitals throughout America due to the decreased payments under the President's health care bill, many small hospitals are facing closure.

I know, like the gentlelady from New York mentioned, I have many small hospitals that are on the razor's edge of being in the black or in the red. Recently, a small hospital in my district was just on the verge of bankruptcy. How is closing five hospitals in the 200-mile area increasing access to care? It isn't. It's making access to care more difficult, more impersonal.

Physicians, like ourselves, we're concerned about what's going to happen here because I'm concerned about my patients. And I'm concerned about my colleagues who complain to me about their patients. I think it's folly to be able to regulate health care from above.

Health care needs reform. We have the best health care in the world. The problem is it costs a lot of money. It costs a lot of money because there's not enough market forces, as my friend from Louisiana mentioned. You know, once somebody pays their copay, they don't care what anything costs. I paid my copay, I don't care what it costs. It's all good. We need to have health insurance be more like car insurance. You can buy car insurance from multiple different companies, thousands of different companies. In Michigan, you can buy your car insurance from a company in Florida or Tennessee because there's a lot of open competition. And your car insurance doesn't pay for an oil change. It doesn't pay for new tires. It doesn't pay for the routine expenses. If your car insurance paid for your oil change and your new tires, it would be really expensive, just like our health insurance is today.

We need to have people understand that health care isn't free once they pay their deductible. I think the health savings account concept where people have to save money tax free in their health savings account, use that money for their routine medical care and have health insurance be what it should be, not complete coverage of everything medicine but insurance for catastrophic disease, for items that you choose to insure for, not to insure for things that the government makes you insure for, like, you know, abortions which you may not want, or pregnancy, which you may not--you know, if you've had a hysterectomy, why should you be paying insurance for a pregnancy? There should be choice in health insurance, to allow people to have a Cadillac plan if they want, if they can afford it, or a Chevrolet plan. Or a young person may have simply a catastrophic plan if they feel they will not have significant health issues.

That type of marketplace and that type of philosophy is what we need in the health insurance business in my view.

I want to ask my colleague from Louisiana if that view of medicine, a market-based insurance and then competition between physicians as well, is your view?