Thank you for writing me about the need for 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 HR1200, the American Health Security Act, every session since the 103rd Congress.
More and more families face increasing financial burdens as their premium contributions to employer-sponsored insurance increase sharply. Others are losing their coverage entirely as jobs are changed or lost. 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, especially his statement that a single payer system of coverage would not be on the table, I do think it is crucial that the Congress take action this year to enact substantive reforms of our health care system.
H.R. 3200, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, was recently reported out of the House Committee on Ways and Means, of which I am a senior member. Under the legislation, all insurance plans offered to American consumers are required to provide their enrollees a certain minimum level of benefits. I am especially concerned that this package include 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 are subject to guaranteed issue and renewability, and eliminates lifetime benefit caps. These insurance market reforms are long overdue, but they will not resolve all of the accessibility problems in our system. It is also essential that we include in the reform structure a strong public option: a coverage plan offered by the government to provide individuals and families with an attractive and affordable alternative to private insurance products. The public option must be a non-negotiable component of this health care reform effort.
Please be assured that as this bill moves forward, I will strongly oppose any efforts to weaken the public option. America's private insurance plans have long dominated the insurance marketplace, with very unsatisfactory results; millions of Americans are uninsured or underinsured, and millions more are finding that they simply cannot afford the ever-increasing costs of the coverage they have. These problems will not go away; on the contrary, they are worsening steadily. We simply must make significant changes in our health care system, and those changes must include a strong public plan of coverage.
Thank you again for your thoughtful comments. I hope you will continue to share your views with me.
Member of Congress
I don't know what HR1200, the American Health Security Act, is, so I'll have to do some research. But it's good to know our congressman indicated support for the single payer system of coverage, and more practically, that he'll resist efforts to water down the public options. That gets my vote.