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The hidden health care cost of cap and trade

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By The Staff

In June, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi successfully forced passage of controversial cap and trade legislation (H.R. 2454) that will cost American families thousands of dollars each year in new energy costs.  This legislation creates a national energy tax that is expected to increase utility bills, raise the price of a gallon of gas, push food prices to new heights and generally increase the cost of nearly every consumer product, including health care.

A November Time Magazine article entitled “Putting Health Care on an Energy Diet” reported that the U.S. health care infrastructure is one of the country’s top energy consumers, second only to the food sales and services industry.  Its annual energy costs clock in at more than $6.5 billion, a number that continues to rise steadily to meet patients’ growing needs.  Hospitals use twice as much energy as a typical office building, due in part to the fact that lights, heating and cooling systems, laboratories, and high-tech equipment must be running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  The Time article also noted several initiatives already underway, without government mandates, to reduce energy consumption within the industry. 

As a result of H.R. 2454, hospitals and other medical facilities across the nation would see significant cost increases on everything from electric bills to medical supplies and pharmaceutical products.  Each of these costs would, inevitably, be passed on to patients.  The non-profit Heritage Foundation estimates that H.R. 2454 could cause health care costs to increase 11.6 percent more than they would otherwise by 2035.

Cap and trade will fundamentally alter the foundation of America’s energy and economy.  Estimates on the direct impact of this legislation range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand a year per family.  However, these estimates do not necessarily account for the increased costs of everything we consume, from groceries to health care.  States like Kentucky will face the burden most severely because over ninety percent of our energy is produced using coal.  H.R. 2454 should not have been voted on in the House until members and their constituents had time to understand the full impact the bill would have on Americans.

The House of Representatives has turned its focus to the important issue of health care reform.  Any successful health care reform must embrace solutions that will reduce costs within the health care system as a whole.  However, Speaker Pelosi’s draft reform bill is expected to cost as much as $1.5 trillion.  On July 9, 40 House Democrats expressed their concerns about this flawed proposal in a letter to the Speaker, stating that, “The discussion draft fails to include adequate structural changes that will succeed in lowering cost and increasing value.  We cannot simply ‘add’ new consumers to a broken system.”

In order to successfully reduce costs and improve quality of care for all Americans, we must reform the system.  Unfortunately, as noted by my colleagues, the current reform proposals do not adequately meet this standard.  My colleagues said it best in their letter: “The American public is looking for us to work together, regardless of party affiliation, to pass comprehensive health care reform.” 

Congressman Geoff Davis