In March of 2010 Representative McDermott sent out the message below … it’s worth re-reading especially the part about the Exchanges and Public Option as a choice.
Thank you for writing me about health care reform. I appreciate the time you took to write on this most important issue. As you know, our current system of health care coverage is miserably inadequate, leaving millions of Americans without an affordable way to get the coverage and the care they need. I have advocated a system of universal, guaranteed health insurance since 1972, when I made my first speech about it in the Washington State Legislature. Here in Congress, I have introduced H.R. 1200, the American Health Security Act, every session since the 103rd Congress (1993-94); this measure creates a national, single-payer system of universal health care coverage. I have offered this proposal repeatedly because wide experience around the world confirms that a single-payer system is the most humane and the most efficient way to provide comprehensive coverage to all while significantly improving health care outcomes.
More and more families face increasing financial burdens as their premium contributions to employer-sponsored insurance increase sharply. Given our current recession, others are losing their coverage entirely as jobs are changed or lost. Because our health insurance industry is largely built on the premise of employer-sponsored insurance, when a person loses his or her job, health insurance also is lost. And when a family member suffers serious illness or injury, many families go bankrupt trying to ensure their loved one receives the care he or she needs. I believe all Americans should have the certainty of comprehensive coverage and appropriate care. While I am disappointed with the health care reform parameters established by President Obama, particularly his refusal to consider a single payer system of coverage , I do think it crucial that the Congress take action this year to enact substantive reforms of our health care system.
H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which passed the House of Representatives on November 7th 2009, represents the ideas of three House committees of jurisdiction, including the Committee on Ways and Means, on which I serve. Under this legislation, all insurance plans offered to American consumers are required to provide their enrollees a certain minimum level of benefits, including generous coverage of women’s and children’s health needs. The legislation also prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, ensures that all plans, even those operating outside of the Health Insurance Exchange, are subject to guaranteed issue and renewability provisions, and eliminates lifetime benefit caps. The Exchange, which becomes operational in 2013, is essentially a marketplace of plans where consumers can shop based on price, coverage needs, and participating providers, and ultimately choose the best plan for them. These insurance market reforms are long overdue, but because they will not resolve all of the accessibility problems in our system, the Exchange also will include a strong public option, an alternative source of coverage intended to compete with private insurers and to force lower premiums for the public by ensuring that insurance companies do not arbitrarily raise premiums to increase profit margins.
During consideration of H.R.3962 on the House Floor, a majority of Members voted in favor of the Stupak Amendment, which restricts expenditure of federal funds for abortion or support of health insurance plans that cover abortion procedures. I voted against the Stupak Amendment because it unnecessarily limits the options women will have with regard to their reproductive health care. For example, the Stupak Amendment could prohibit a woman from using her own funds to purchase a private plan on the Exchange that would cover abortion services without a federal subsidy.
The decision to bear a child is a profoundly personal and private one, to be made in consultation between a woman and her health care provider. We must protect and preserve the right to choose while promoting policies and programs that improve women’s health and make abortion less necessary. We can do more to prevent the need for abortion, and I continue to press for effective policy solutions to provide a woman and her family a wider variety of options when facing an unwanted pregnancy. Congress can and should expand health care coverage, strengthen welfare programs, promote adoption programs, and advocate other options for pregnant women.
Also included in H.R. 3962 are important provisions I authored to allow states to develop evidence-based home visitation programs to ensure that mothers have access to the resources they need to promote the development of healthy, strong children. In addition, I authored a provision ensuring equal tax treatment of gay and lesbian purchasers of health insurance. I am pleased that these provisions have been included in HR 3962, and I will press for their retention in any compromise with the Senate on final legislation. A defining moment in this nation’s history is upon us. We have the opportunity to do something that has eluded the Congress for many decades: to ensure high quality, affordable, universal health care for the American people. We simply must make significant changes in our health care system, and we must do it now.
Leadership in both the House and Senate is pursuing passage of health care reform. Because of the recent loss in Massachusetts, a decision has been made to pursue the strategy of reconciliation. Under this scenario, the House will likely first have to pass the Senate bill. As you likely know, there are many things that I find objectionable in the Senate bill, which is why the House will require a “sidecar” bill to be passed by both chambers of Congress that would correct some of the things that are objectionable in the Senate bill. For example, the Senate bill still contains the special deals that would pay more of the Medicaid expense for the State of Nebraska in perpetuity. The Senate bill also contains the excise tax that would unfairly burden working class families. Under the reconciliation process, we can correct a limited number of these things; however, the key to reconciliation is that any change must be related to the budget.
Though the reconciliation process is extremely detailed, I anticipate the passage of comprehensive health care reform in the next several weeks. Republicans contend that the use of reconciliation to pass health care reform represents the apocalypse. This is not the case; Republicans have used the reconciliation process numerous times in the last few years. In fact, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy were passed using reconciliation. I support the use of reconciliation to ensure that we can pass comprehensive health care reform and ensure that everyone has access to comprehensive, quality health care. To read more about reconciliation, please visit the website of the Rules Committee at http://www.rules.house.gov/archives/bud_rec_proc.htm.
One thing can be said: I believe we must move forward in a meaningful way. I was encouraged to hear the President say that he would not quit and I want you to know that I will not quit either. Please know that I remain actively involved in this process and am confident that we will accomplish what we were sent here to do: ensuring that nearly every American has access to quality, affordable, comprehensive health care coverage.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.
Member of Congress