By Sen. John Barrasso, M.D.
With the election over, Congress is now in the middle of a busy lame-duck session. With only a few weeks left until the end of the year, we still need to address many important challenges. Some of the biggest issues that will affect Wyoming include the “fiscal cliff”, ensuring our seniors on Medicare have access to care, and making sure our farming and ranching communities have the certainty they need to make long-term business decisions.
While traveling across Wyoming the last couple of months, the number one concern people have is for the future of our economy and jobs. Right now, the President and Congressional leadership are debating if we should extend expiring tax relief for all Americans. If Congress and the President do not act by the end of this year, American taxpayers will face the largest tax increase in American history. According to an Ernst & Young report, these tax increases will hit almost one million job creators, eliminate 710,000 jobs and cut wages by nearly 2 percent.
Increasing taxes on America’s job creators is not the right solution. Our problem isn’t that we’re taxed too little—it’s that we spend too much. In order to keep our country from going off the “fiscal cliff”, Washington needs to cut wasteful spending and focus on getting more Americans back to work.
Another important issue facing Congress is legislation that gives Wyoming’s farming and ranching communities the certainty they need to make long-term business decisions. The Senate passed a farm bill earlier this year that does this and also provides much needed drought relief to farmers. The House of Representatives passed similar drought relief legislation this past summer. Now, we just need to work together to combine the areas that both the House and Senate can agree on. Thousands of drought-stricken farming and ranching communities across the country are depending on Congress to reach an agreement.
Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers are also very worried about the upcoming changes to the death tax. Washington Democrats would like to see the death tax brought back to the levels of the Clinton administration—where anything over $1 million in assessed value will be taxed at 55 percent. This would force many of Wyoming’s farming and ranching families out of their livelihoods.
Congress also needs to address the formula it uses to determine Medicare payments to doctors. If Congress fails to act by the end of the year, payments to doctors will fall by 27 percent. This would be catastrophic for Wyoming’s seniors, since many doctors have already stopped accepting new Medicare patients due to low-reimbursement rates.
As a physician who practiced medicine for over 25 years, I know from personal experience how important it is that we provide certainty to Medicare patients and the physicians who care for them. We need to find a permanent solution that ensures Medicare reimbursements will remain stable over the long-term. This will give doctors the certainty they need in order to ensure our seniors can receive the health care they need.
With the results of the latest election, Americans made it clear that they want Congress to work together, regardless of party, to find solutions. In Wyoming, we know how to work together to get things done. It’s one of the many reasons why our state is consistently one of the best run states in the country. The only way Congress has a chance of addressing and solving critical issues by the end of the year, is to follow Wyoming’s lead.