Below is a letter I receive from Rep. Rick Larson (Democrat) regarding the old House health care bill. Late Saturday night, the House approved a variation of H.R. 3200. It has a different call number, more pages, and more extensive assaults on our freedoms.
Thank you for taking time to contact me about health care reform. In recent months I have heard from many constituents like you who have shared their health care stories and concerns. To date, I have received over 7000 letters, emails, and calls on this important issue and I wish I could respond to each individually. However, I felt it was important to share my thoughts with you on health care reform today as we engage in this important debate across the district.
I believe that health care reform needs to happen. The status quo for health care is unacceptable. Small business owners cannot afford coverage for their employees, families are worried about their jobs and sky-high health care costs, and taxpayers have seen health care costs explode the federal budget deficit. Discrimination must stop for individuals who are denied coverage or charged through the roof because of their age or gender, or because they have a preexisting condition such as diabetes or cancer.
Since 2001, health care premiums have grown four times faster than wages. In the 2nd Congressional District, 104,000 people do not have health insurance. Many more are just a pink slip away from joining the ranks of the uninsured. Those who do have health care coverage are struggling with the high cost of care.
President Obama has rightly said that health care reform is not just a moral imperative, it is an economic imperative. If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy here in Northwest Washington, then we must address the crushing cost of health care on our families and businesses.
I recently heard testimony in the House Budget Committee from economist Christina Romer, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. She testified that reforming health care can increase families' incomes and decrease the deficit. For a typical family of four, health care reform could put $2,600 more in their pockets by 2020 (in 2009 dollars), and nearly $10,000 more in their pockets by 2030. According to Dr. Romer, reforming health care could have a "very large" effect on the deficit in the long term.
The 111th Congress has made health reform a priority. Last month, congressional leaders introduced H.R. 3200. Based on the conviction that every American should have access to an affordable health insurance plan of his or her choosing, H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act, focuses on two main principles: expanding insurance options for the uninsured and strengthening protections for those who already have insurance coverage. This draft legislation would protect current coverage - allowing individuals to keep the insurance they have if they like it - and preserve choice of doctors, hospitals, and health plans.
This draft legislation also creates a new health insurance exchange in which uninsured individuals and small businesses can select affordable health insurance coverage from a public or private plan.
H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act:
o Ends Discrimination and Unfair Coverage Denials: Insurance companies will no longer be able to engage in discriminatory practices where they refuse to sell or renew policies due to an individual's health status. In addition, they can no longer exclude coverage of treatments for pre-existing health conditions.
o Creates Shared Responsibility: The draft legislation creates shared responsibility among individuals, employers and government to ensure all Americans have affordable health coverage. Except in cases of hardship, individuals will be responsible for obtaining and maintaining health insurance. Those who choose not to obtain coverage will pay a penalty, and those who cannot afford to obtain coverage will get help to do so. The proposal builds on the employer-sponsored coverage that exists today: employers will have the option of providing health insurance coverage for their workers or contributing funds on their behalf. Employers that choose to contribute will pay a fee. It will also create a new public option for health insurance coverage to compete with private insurance companies and help bring down costs for consumers.
o Creates A Health Insurance Exchange to Choose Insurance: The new Health Insurance Exchange creates a place for individuals and small businesses to comparison shop among public and private insurers. It sets and enforces insurance reforms and consumer protections, facilitates enrollment, and administers affordability credits to help low- and middle- income individuals and families purchase insurance.
o Provides Help for Small Businesses: Recognizing the special needs of small businesses which are the engine of our economy, an exemption from the employer responsibility requirement would be put in place for certain small businesses. In addition, a new small business tax credit will be available for those firms who want to provide health coverage to their workers, but cannot afford it today.
o Prevention and Wellness: The draft legislation expands Community Health Centers, creates community-based programs to deliver prevention and wellness services, and strengthens public health programs.
o Improves Medicare: The draft legislation will fill the "donut hole" in the Medicare Part D program. The current "donut hole" leaves a gap in the prescription drug medication program when seniors need it most. The draft bill provides a large down payment immediately into the donut hole and eliminates the discrepancy over a number of years.
o Controlling costs: The draft legislation will reduce the growth in health care spending by promoting more efficient delivery of health care to make sure that patients get the right treatment at the right time, in the most efficient way possible. This means rewarding the quality of care, not the quantity of care. The bill will also improve payment accuracy and eliminate overpayments, and prevent waste, fraud and abuse.
I do have some concerns about the original draft of the bill, but we have made progress to address them.
Under the status quo, Washington state is penalized for providing higher-quality, lower-cost care. Local Medicare reimbursement rates are so low that many local doctors do not accept patients on Medicare. This problem makes it harder for local seniors to get the care they need. It must be fixed. But under the original health care reform bill introduced in the House, this problem was not fixed. In fact, it was expanded. The same unfair, wasteful reimbursement policies would have been expanded from Medicare to the public insurance option and the local patients it would cover. An insurance card would be useless if a patient could not find a doctor to treat them.
That is why I have worked with Members of Congress from 16 states and the White House to improve the bill and get health reform that works for our state. I have pushed to get a fair deal and change the way health care is delivered to reward "value not volume" - value for the patient, not volume of tests or procedures.
Working with my colleagues from Washington and other states, we secured a deal with House leadership to help bring fairness for Washington state and greater access to care for local seniors. The agreement calls to reform Medicare payments, reward high-quality, cost-efficient care and remedy geographic disparities that hurt access to care for local patients.
Where are we now? Currently three House committees have passed their own versions of the health reform bill. Congressional leaders will combine these bills to decide on final legislation. A final vote is planned in September, and I will read the final bill carefully before I cast my vote.
In recent months I have heard from many constituents who have shared their health care stories. Over the August recess I am hosting town hall meetings and meeting with local health care providers to continue the health care reform discussion.
Congress is on the cusp of reforming health care to bring down costs, expand coverage and ban discrimination. Reforming health care will bring stability for working families. It will mean that my constituents will not have to worry about losing coverage or going bankrupt from medical bills they cannot afford. And as we head toward a final vote here in the House, I will keep working to ensure that health reform brings a fair deal for Washington state.
United States Representative
Washington State, 2nd District
Rick voted Saturday night, for a bill that will devastate our economy. HR 3962 will turn our country into a socialist wasteland in our life times. That means our children and our grandchildren will barely, if at all, remember life as free citizens of the U.S.A. This make me sick. Rick Larson and his comrades were, and still are reckless in their every attempt to kill this country as we once knew it and as we know it today. If they have their way on this and other things, they will totally kill this country.
Our parents and grandparents gave their lives to squelch out tyranny in the early 20th century. Obama and his flock are trashing every aspect of what our forefathers took over 200 years to build. Stop these people in their tracks. Make them be accountable to the People once again. Read the bills being worked on and passed in the House and the Senate. There are several places you can go to see what is going on. You can go to www.thomas.loc.gov or to www.buythebill.com. You can view the documents for free at each of these sites. I like Thomas because you can look at a all the things that are being discussed daily on the Senate and House floors. You won't believe the silly, little mundane, and stupid things they waste their time on. It is all public record.