Governor Corbett Testifies on Federal Health Care Law

Mar 23, 2011, 15:08 ET from Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Corbett today testified before a congressional subcommittee field hearing in Harrisburg on the impact of the federal health care law enacted one year ago.

His testimony, as prepared for delivery before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Health, follows:

Chairman Pitts, Ranking Member Pallone, and members of the committee, on behalf of all of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I want to welcome you and thank you for holding this important hearing.

We are here to discuss the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as the federal health care law, one year after the law's passage.

As Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I share the stated goal of this committee, which is to ensure quality and affordable health care. I believe we must adopt common-sense policies on health care and health insurance and we must protect the relationship between patients and the health care providers of their choice.  

However, one year after passage of President Obama's health care law, I disagree that this law is the right avenue to reach affordable and sustainable health care.

I recognize that there is great passion on all sides of this issue. However, from the very beginning I have stated that the health care law imposes an unconstitutional mandate which forces citizens to purchase health insurance. Pennsylvania is currently participating in litigation where we contend that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to enact this requirement, and the law threatens every citizen's individual liberties – well beyond health care. Regulating and penalizing private decisions such as this would leave no areas of individual decision-making beyond the reach of the federal government.  

The lawsuit I mentioned is just one of numerous suits working their way through federal court system. I believe every citizen of the commonwealth and of the entire nation deserves clarity on this matter. That is why on Feb. 9 of this year, I joined 27 other governors in asking the president to expedite all cases to the United States Supreme Court. I want to reiterate this message again today: I respectfully request President Obama to call for an expedited process where the high court can hear and decide this important national question. Pennsylvania and all states need clarity. Our businesses, health care providers and citizens deserve quick action and frankly we need to know our options and obligations.

Additionally, the federal health care law does not adequately address the costs of health care. Not addressing medical liability reform to stop frivolous lawsuits and to prevent defensive medicine was a major shortcoming of the law. I am proud that we are now taking steps in Pennsylvania to cure this shortcoming.  

We must look more closely at how we are caring for those with chronic conditions.  I believe that the best place to address chronic conditions and to promote healthier lifestyles is at the state and local level. Some proactive steps include individual accountability such as teaching better eating habits and stressing the devastating impact of smoking and drug abuse. We must give individuals the necessary education, training and preventive care to improve a person's health status. We are working on these cost saving ideas at the state level in partnership with our health care providers.  

We also must increase competition among health insurers based on quality and cost. We should arm the consumer with more information that is usable and understandable so that they can compare products and prices.  Pennsylvania is a diverse state with many different insurance market dynamics that vary widely by region. A one-size-fits-all approach will frankly not work in Pennsylvania.    

Turning to the cost of this law, let me be crystal clear: the Obama health care law creates a huge financial burden on Pennsylvania. The main avenue where the health care law expands coverage is through Medicaid. Medicaid is an important program that serves the very young, elderly and many people with lifelong mental and physical health problems. However, it is also a program that is in trouble.

Pennsylvania currently has approximately 2.2 million people receiving Medicaid benefits. It is estimated that the expansion of Medicaid set for 2014 called for under the law will bring over 750,000 additional Pennsylvania citizens onto the Medicaid rolls. Therefore, the law would have roughly 1-in-4 Pennsylvania citizens on Medicaid. This is simply unsustainable. Right now, Medicaid accounts for about 30 percent of the state budget and it is rising rapidly. Therefore, before we spend one penny on schools, roads, police and firemen, we only have 70 cents of our state dollar left. With the commonwealth facing a tremendous budget shortfall in the billions, we simply cannot afford this expansion of Medicaid.

Some would remind me that in the first few years, the federal government is picking up the bill for this coverage expansion. However, I would remind them of two things: first, this is the people's money -- whether it comes from Washington or Harrisburg; second, further down the road, the law has Pennsylvania picking up a much larger portion of the tab. A flawed federal philosophy on funding is a reason why states have such a budget shortfall today. The time of unfunded mandates such as this should end -- and end today.

I would stress to this committee that states have in the past and continue to be the best place to decide what is best for its residents. States are the place where innovation takes place. People often forget that the national Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is primarily based on an original Pennsylvania program.  Pennsylvania was also ahead of the curve in gathering data and studying health care costs with the creation of the Health Care Cost Containment Council. Let us build on this innovation and give us the flexibility to save important programs like Medicaid.  

Let us run a Medicaid program that is not measured on whether it adheres to federal requirements, but whether it encourages prevention, improves health outcomes and ultimately benefits the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. To accomplish this in a state as large and demographically diverse as Pennsylvania, we again need flexibility. We need to be free from the onerous, one-size-fits-all mandates.

As governor, I will continue to work to ensure that Pennsylvanians can benefit from our world-renowned hospitals, physicians and health care providers. We must build on this system of innovation and not burden it. I believe that with your help, the commonwealth is well positioned moving forward. I ask you to join me in this important journey.

Thank you.

Media contact: Kevin Harley, 717-783-1116

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor