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Nation deserves the right
prescription for health care,
not a quick fix

Health care. There are few issues with greater impact on each and every one of us personally, professionally and economically.

There are even fewer that are more complicated to address and with more negative repercussions, if mishandled -- which is why every Georgian, every American, should be outraged by the speed at which the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress are trying to pass what could be one of the most sweeping and nation-changing pieces of legislation in modern history.

Few would argue that health care is an area in which some level of reform is needed. The U.S. Medicare system is quickly approaching bankruptcy; employers are faced with dwindling revenues and rising premiums and are struggling to continue offering employee coverage; and many communities, including some right here in Georgia, lack adequate medical resources.

These and other issues should be addressed -- but no action should be taken without understanding, and, hopefully, mitigating, some costly and potentially damaging consequences.

Central to the current debate is the creation of a new government-run health-insurance plan intended to cover Americans otherwise uninsured, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates would cost as much as $1 trillion over just 10 years. How would we pay for that? Proposals include billions in new taxes on individuals and employers and sin taxes on products, such as soft drinks sweetened with sugar or corn-based sweeteners.

The CBO estimates are based on the current number of people needing insurance and do not take into account the fact that some employers may choose to let their employees rely on the new government health plan rather than continue to pay premiums themselves. It is estimated that for this reason as many as 120 million individuals, who currently have employer-provided coverage, would also end up on the government plan.

What can we expect from government-run health care? You only need to look at Canada or Great Britain where:

· Anything deemed too expensive -- such as newer drugs and surgeries, physical therapy, or preventative care -- is often denied to control costs.

· Patients wait longer for care, and are often refused treatment if they are older or less likely to recover.

· The number of providers has dwindled due to lower reimbursement rates for services performed, making it even more difficult to receive care.

No one is suggesting that the administration wants results like these, but they are a very real possibility, if leaders in Congress do not take the time to craft legislation that balances the desire to cover more Americans with the realities of implementing a new government-run health care plan, exponentially increasing taxes on individuals and business, and reducing the overall quality of care.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce applauds those representatives in Washington who are insisting that health-care reform be done correctly, and urges those members who are feeling the pressure of political expediency to think about what is ultimately best for their constituents.

If your doctor prescribes the wrong medicine, you just get sicker. We cannot afford to prescribe our nation the wrong solution to heal our health-care woes.

George M. Israel, III, is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.