Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Message from Earl

This e-mail from Congressman Earl Blumenauer landed in my inbox about two hours ago, and I’m taking the liberty of sharing it with you by reprinting* it here. In it, Rep. Blumenauer tears down the web of lies surrounding proposed health care reform. If you have any concerns about the issue of health care reform, here’s yet another chance for you to learn the truth.

September 1, 2009

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Thank you for contacting me with your thoughts about health care reform. In the past few months, I have received thousands of letters and emails and have had hundreds of conversations with people about the state of America's health care system.

Just the other day, I ran into the owner of a small business who I have known for years. She told me that her employees' health insurance rates were going up 32.7 % next year - on top of the double digit increases of the last few years! As a result, she was confronted with a terrible dilemma: Should she stop providing health insurance to her employees? Dramatically cut the benefits the insurance provides? Or make her employees pay more for their insurance? Employers across the country are grappling with the same issue, which is why we need health insurance reform sooner rather than later.

The debate over health insurance is not just about people currently without coverage. It's about small business owners and their employees. It's about the individuals who are losing their jobs (and health insurance) due to the ongoing recession and also about people approaching the age for Medicare eligibility who want to make sure that this popular, government run health insurance program is still around when they retire.

Health care costs are spiraling out of control. This year, every insured American family will pay $1,017 in insurance premiums just to cover the medical expenses of the uninsured. Single people who are insured pay $368 per year. All total, that's $42.7 billion a year, or $1,354 per second! This "hidden health care tax" subsidizes the uncompensated health care costs of the uninsured.

Without reform, the cost of health care for the average family of four is projected to rise $1,800 every year for years to come. Worse still, without reform insurance companies will be increasingly responsible for health care decisions, taking away individuals' ability to make decisions about what care they receive.

America's middle class deserves better. America's families need affordable, stable health care coverage that can't be taken away from them. Reining in health care costs is critical in light of our pressing economic challenges and growing social needs which is why I support health care reform.

Here's what the House legislation HR 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act, means to you:


* No more co-pays or deductibles for preventive care

* No more rate increases for pre-existing conditions, gender, or occupation

* An annual cap on your out-of-pocket expenses

* Group rates of a national plan if you buy your own insurance

* Guaranteed and affordable dental, hearing, and vision care for your children


* Keep your doctor and your current plan, if you like them

* More choice, with a high quality public health insurance option competing with private insurers


* You and your doctors make health care decisions - not insurance companies

* More family doctors and nurses entering the workforce, helping guarantee access

* Mental health care must be covered


* No more coverage denials for pre-existing conditions

* No more lifetime limits on how much insurance companies will pay

* No reason to ever again make a job or life decision based on the fear of losing health care coverage

You can read the entire bill and summaries of each of the sections on my website at http://www.blumenauer.house.gov.

As you may have noticed, a lot of myths and outright lies about health care reform are being spread by people who want to maintain the status quo. While it's important to have fair and honest debate about how much government should be involved, how we get the best value for our dollar, and what regulations are put in place to make sure the insurance companies don't end up gouging the American taxpayer, we need to reject the divisive tactics and rhetoric from those who have no interest in making our country healthier.

On that note, I want to take this opportunity to address some concerns I've heard and clear up some misconceptions regarding HR 3200:

* This bill will NOT raise taxes on low and middle-class families. A small surtax on the richest 1.4% of Americans will cover most of the cost of health insurance reform. Furthermore, this increase will not occur during a recession, but is set to be implemented in 2011, long after economists predict the recession will end.

* This bill will NOT cover anyone who resides in this country illegally. Section 246 of H.R. 3200 specifically forbids federal dollars from going towards health insurance for undocumented workers.

* This bill will NOT create "death panels" or euthanize our senior citizens. Section 1233 of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act simply allows Medicare to reimburse health professionals for a voluntary conversation about end-of-life decisions between a patient and a doctor, at the patient's behest. Like all Medicare benefits, this is a voluntary benefit! If patients don't want to discuss their care wishes, they don't have to.

* This bill will NOT exempt Members of Congress and other government employees from following the same guidelines as everybody else. Any health care plan used by a federal employee or elected official will be subject to the same reforms as all other private plans.

* This bill will NOT cut Medicare coverage. This bill does include Medicare reforms designed to lower costs and increase efficiency, but NOT at the expense of caring for enrollees.

* This bill will NOT abolish the private health insurance system in this country. Under the bill, patients would be able to keep their private insurance, and there would be no mandate to switch plans or join the public insurance option. This bill is all about giving people options and letting them choose the type of care that best works for them.

Thank you again for your interest and involvement. I hope you will continue to be engaged in this debate in the coming months, and I encourage you to visit my website (http://www.blumenauer.house.gov) for more information about America's Affordable Health Choices Act and health insurance reform in general.


Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress

* Formatting edited to fit this blog, original wording retained.

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