Devin Nunes

is a Republican congressman from California and a member of the House Budget and Ways and Means Committees

Insurance costs are growing too rapidly, many Americans are without coverage, and access to quality health care is not equal.

Serious and credible health-care reforms must empower patients and health providers, must provide universal access to quality care - not simply access to a government insurance card, and must be fully financed. These basic principles are contained in the Patients' Choice Act, a comprehensive reform bill I introduced with Rep. Paul Ryan and Sens. Tom Coburn and Richard Burr.

However, a significant and world-changing difference exists between our plan and the reforms sought by President Obama and his allies.

Congressional Democrats are moving forward with a plan that will cost taxpayers more but does not provide universal access to quality care. It will simply enlarge failing government programs and paper over long-term challenges. The Kennedy plan, for example, is expected to cost at least $1 trillion. Another plan, supported by the White House, is conservatively expected to cost $1.6 trillion. In sharp contrast, the Patients' Choice Act costs the taxpayer nothing more than what is already being spent today - meaning our plan is budget neutral. In fact, we believe it will result in significant net savings.

What Democratic leaders have failed to recognize is that taxpayers are not clamoring to spend more money on health care. We spend enough today, far more than other industrialized nations. The key to reform is to spend our money efficiently and to give Americans more control over their health. The last thing Congress should do is make insurance more expensive while raising taxes - yet that is exactly what Democrats propose.

The price tag alone should be enough to call into question the quality of the Democratic proposal. The details will end all doubt. The plan is a looming disaster. It envisions the establishment of a new health insurance bureaucracy in Washington. Despite the rhetoric of choice, the new agency would decide what health coverage you are permitted to receive and it will drive cost containment through the rationing of benefits.

In short, despite the personal nature of medical treatment, the Democratic plan seeks to centralize control of medicine in our nation. Americans who don't fit into a predefined "best practices" recipe cooked up in Washington will find themselves without proper health care. Those with chronic illness or disability will be particularly abused by the new system - as will other populations that benefit from innovation and adaptability.

Furthermore, while the Democrats talk about choice, their plan will actually remove options for most Americans. According to an independent study by the Lewin Group, three-fourths of Americans with private insurance - 120 million people - will be involuntarily forced into a government health program under the Democratic plan. Worse, the Congressional Budget Office has determined that the plan will only reduce the number of uninsured by 16 million - about a third of the total.

Democrats talk about universal coverage and choice, but don't deliver. My colleagues and I do.

If you have insurance through your employer, you can keep it. If you need to buy insurance, it will be affordable and accessible - even if you have a preexisting condition. And if you are low-income, you will get extra assistance that will allow you to exit the current system - and provide access to the same private market used by other Americans.

Our plan works by giving every single American Medi-Choice rebates - an advanceable and refundable tax rebate. The rebate alone will cover 70 percent of the cost of the average health plan in America today - meaning that monthly insurance costs will drop considerably for virtually everyone. However, affordability can only be assured if the American people are empowered and the profiteers in the health-care industry are exposed to meaningful competition. State-based health exchanges will create a venue for that competition and be a clearinghouse where consumers can shop for the coverage they want.

The Patients' Choice Act also, for the first time, offers quality health care to low-income Americans. As we speak, millions of Americans receive their health insurance through the government under Medicaid. Democratic reforms propose adding millions more to this system. However, Medicaid "insurance" does not mean access to health care and increased spending has not and will not yield better outcomes. It is second-class medicine.

Democratic leaders scowl at this description, but how else to describe a system in which only 20 percent of physicians will see Medicaid patients? A system in which Medicaid patients are more likely to die after cardiac surgery than those in private insurance or three times more likely to die during cancer treatment? Low-income Medicaid beneficiaries struggle to receive the care they need, yet Democrats want to vastly expand the rolls. This is neither compassionate nor in the best interest of the American people. There is a better way.

The Patients' Choice Act will give every American access to private health care. Our plan takes power away from government bureaucrats and insurance executives and gives that power to you.

E-mail Devin Nunes at Rep.Nunes@mail.house.gov.