An Open Letter to the Raleigh News & Observer

This week, the Raleigh News & Observer ran an editorial attacking the Patient CARE Act, my proposal to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered reforms of our health care system that are actually affordable. Throughout the editorial, they mischaracterized the proposal, and mislead their readers about the plan and its contents. In an attempt to set the record straight, I prepared a response-a response the News & Observer said they would be happy to run, if the length was cut in half. As this is a complicated, multi-faceted plan that requires a full explanation, I felt it better to offer up my full response here instead. Thank you for reading.

- Senator Richard Burr

"When the health care debate began, I warned that the President's health care bill was the wrong direction for our nation and North Carolina. I offered an alternative then-The Patients' Choice Act-along with Senator Tom Coburn because health care was broken before Obamacare. Unfortunately, as a result of its implementation, things are worse today than they were before. Going back to the way our health care system looked before is not an option, but neither is continuing on the current course of increased costs, government mandates, and broken promises.

The President and Congressional Democrats made many promises during the health care debate. Since the law's enactment, North Carolinians have felt the adverse effect of one broken promise after another.

There is no denying that the dire predictions from the debate have come true. Just ask the millions of Americans who lost the plans they liked after being promised they could keep them. Or the families nationwide who were promised that their annual premiums would go down by $2,500, but have seen premiums go up an average of 41 percent in the individual market.
It seems like every day another employer reduces hours or stops offering insurance in response to Obamacare's mandates. These mandates are hurting our economy and families.

The President's $2.6 trillion budget busting law used Medicare to fund new entitlements we can't afford and expanded the Medicaid program-a program that nationally some 40 percent of physicians do not even see Medicaid patients-instead of reforming it to better meet patients' needs now and in the future. As Governor Perdue warned, Obamacare's taxes on life-saving medical products threaten our nation's-and North Carolina's-standing as a global leader in medical innovation.
It's clear that the current course is unsustainable. Fortunately, for families across North Carolina and our nation, we can lower costs and empower patients in their health care choices and decisions.

In stark contrast to Obamacare, the Patient CARE Act, a proposal I unveiled last week with my colleagues Senator Tom Coburn, a physician, and Senator Orrin Hatch, is based on principles that will lower costs and expand access to quality coverage and care by empowering Americans to make their own health care decisions, rather than empowering government to make decisions for them.

First, the Patient CARE Act repeals Obamacare-throwing out the burdensome, costly mandates and government regulations and adopting common-sense consumer protections, including prohibiting life-time benefit caps and allowing dependents to stay on their parents' plans until age 26. Under my plan, no individual could be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

My plan addresses a distortion in the tax code that drives up health care costs. We cap the exclusion of an employee's employer-provided health care at 65 percent of the total cost of the most generous employer plans on the market, like union plans. Everyone with employer-sponsored health insurance under that amount won't see any change in the tax treatment of their benefit. Unlike Obamacare's "Cadillac tax," which imposes an across the board 40 percent excise tax on the richest benefit plans regardless of an individual's income, under my plan the employee's health benefit above the threshold would be treated as regular income for that employee. And as Ryan Ellis with Americans for Tax Reform pointed out this week, my plan will produce a net tax cut. Every American and every health plan is taxed under Obamacare.

Targeted tax credits, adjusted for age and income, will give individuals purchasing power and the opportunity to choose a plan that meets their specific needs. Because we lower costs through medical malpractice reform and increased transparency, these dollars will go further.

My plan modernizes Medicaid through a capped allotment, an idea brought forward by the Clinton Administration, to provide states with predictable funding while empowering them with programmatic flexibility to better meet their patients' needs. Under my plan, a Medicaid beneficiary could choose to opt-out of Medicaid and use their tax credit to purchase a plan that better meets their needs. Obamacare failed to reform Medicaid and put this already strained program at greater risk.

Defenders of Obamacare claim that there are no alternatives but alternatives existed at the time of the debate and they exist today. Yes, my plan repeals Obamacare, but it also replaces it with reforms that address what was broken before Obamacare, as well as what has been made worse because of it. Opponents who incorrectly characterize my plan as the same old insurance system we had before Obamacare do so as a scare tactic because to acknowledge that there is an alternative that lower costs, increases choices, and covers Americans with pre-existing conditions is to admit that there is a better way than Obamacare.

North Carolinians will find the Patient CARE Act is an alternative they can believe in because we believe citizens, not the government, know what's best for themselves and their families"