The following is a response to my request to Gary Peters to vote NO on the health care bill. Apparently, he is still not listening to his constituents in Oakland County. Needless to say. we need to work even harder now to replace him this November with a conservative person that is willing to listen and work for us.
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962). I greatly appreciate you taking the time to express your views on this very important matter. Your input is, and always will be, welcomed and appreciated.
After reviewing our current situation closely and speaking with thousands of Oakland Country residents, I believe that serious reforms are needed in the health care system. In Michigan health care premiums have risen 17 times faster than wages, and families are finding it increasingly difficult to afford coverage. In Michigan's 9th district alone, there were 1,880 health care related bankruptcies in 2008. Moreover, annual U.S. health care spending is expected to reach $4.3 trillion in 2017, an astonishing 20 percent of our nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Clearly, this is an unsustainable course and action is needed now to reduce health care costs for businesses and families before out of control health care spending further damages the economy.
H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, passed the House on November 7, 2009. Before this vote occurred, I outlined several core principles that any health proposal must meet to secure my vote. In the months leading up to the vote I met with hundreds of doctors, hospitals, and health care stakeholders from Oakland County. After carefully reviewing and reading the legislation, and after receiving the feedback of thousands of Oakland county residents through town halls, tele-town halls, letters, phone calls, and other public events, I concluded that H.R. 3962 met my principles and would reduce insurance costs for families, businesses and seniors. Furthermore, I found that many improvements and changes were addressed in H.R. 3962 that were raised by constituents in the course of the above meetings. While I agree that this bill is not perfect, it is nevertheless a clear improvement from the status quo for Oakland County residents.
believe that health care reform should bring down health care costs for businesses and middle class families by creating real market competition, expanding choice and making our system more efficient. Under H.R. 3962, small businesses and individuals could shop on an affordable insurance exchange, an online marketplace where insurance companies would compete for the business of a multi-million person pool of Americans. The exchange would include one public option, which would have to survive on its own premiums as private plans do, that would also compete for business on the exchange. Health care reform must not increase the deficit. I was pleased to see the final House bill is not only fully paid for, but that it actually reduces the deficit by $30 billion.
Medicare is a sacred trust with America's seniors, and I have always said it is essential that Medicare is preserved, protected, and strengthened in health care reform. The health bill reduces prescription drug prices in the "donut hole" by 50% in 2010 and closes the gap in coverage completely by 2019. The bill eliminates co-pays on preventative care for Medicare recipients so that preventative services like diabetes and cancer screenings are available to seniors free of charge. The bill reduces waste and fraud and cuts inefficient overpayments to private insurance companies. These measures not only improve the quality of the program, they will also protect the long-term solvency of Medicare and ensure it is available for years to come and lower the deficit. The health care reform bill also includes a provision that allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate a better deal on prescription drug prices for seniors. This is a request I repeatedly heard from Oakland County seniors and was something that I fought for and urged Democratic leadership to include in the bill.
The health care reform bill included even more competition than previous proposals and includes the Republican idea of allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines through interstate compacts. Competition is further enhanced through a provision that stipulates health insurance companies would no longer be exempt from anti-trust laws. In addition to a more competitive insurance market, the bill reduces insurance costs through innovative delivery systems and focuses on coordinated care models, and creates a Center for Medicare Innovation to pursue further delivery system reforms
Health care reform is especially important for small businesses, which are essential to Michigan's economic recovery. They employ half of all private sector employees, and are responsible for creating 60-80% of all new jobs over the last decade, are currently at a significant disadvantage when it comes to providing healthcare to their employees. Small businesses currently pay 18% higher premiums and double the deductibles as larger corporations for the same coverage. Under the reform bill, they will be able to take advantage of low group rates and reduced administrative costs in the exchange. Small businesses would also receive a tax credit to help them purchase health insurance for their employees. Current projections show that if no action is taken one in five small businesses will drop their employees' health coverage in the coming years. The cost saving to small businesses included in the bill are essential to ensuring that they can continue to cover their employees and offer compensation that is competitive with larger firms.
I believe health care reform should make the health system more stable so that one job loss, serious illness or other unforeseen event does not lead to bankruptcy or loss of access to health care. The health bill achieves greater stability for families because if an employee loses his or her job, he or she can purchase affordable coverage through the exchange. A provision was added that lets children stay on their parents coverage until they are 27 if the parents choose, so they're not uninsured if they do not get a job that provides health care immediately after college. Those with financial hardship will receive discounts to ensure they can afford health care.
Health care reform must end discriminatory practices by insurance companies, and the health bill does exactly that. The bill prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions, ends annual and lifetime benefit limits, and caps out of pocket expenses at $10,000 per family per year. The bill prohibits egregious gender and age discrimination, which is commonplace in the individual market. For example, women are charged up to 48% higher premiums than men for the same coverage. This practice will end under the health care reform bill. The bill also requires critical services be covered. For example, 79% of individual policies nationwide don't cover maternity care, and in Michigan this number can be as high as 98% in the individual market. Maternity care will be covered by insurance plans after reform, and pre-existing conditions will not be used to deny anybody coverage.
Finally, I thought the process for debating and passing the health care bill must be fair and transparent. I fought alongside a group of my colleagues to ensure the original deadline for passing health care reform at the end of July was abandoned, allowing for more time to listen to local residents and think through all of the bill's provisions. Ultimately the bill was improved during this time thanks to the input of Oakland County residents like yourself. I also pressured leadership to agree to post final legislation for at least 72 hours prior to the vote. The House bill was online for eight days before it was voted on, with the manager's amendment online for four days before the vote. These documents were all made available on my website, and I will continue to provide residents with the most up to date information my website as it becomes available.
The health care reform bill must now be approved by the Senate, and will likely undergo further changes before a final package is voted on by both houses and signed into law. The current healthcare system is badly in need of reform. As the process continues, I will continue to support measures that will lower costs for families, businesses and seniors. I will take these principles along with your views into consideration while evaluating the legislation as it moves forward in the Senate and towards a final House vote.
I would like to thank you again for contacting me. I always appreciate hearing from constituents, and hope that you take the time to contact me again soon. For more information, please feel free to visit my website, http://www.peters.house.gov