Over the years, I have met with my constituents countless times to discuss our health care system and the reforms they want to make it work better for all Americans.
We know its great strengths: It can provide cutting edge care, cure diseases once thought fatal, and develop new drugs, devices, and treatments with mind-numbing speed. We are blessed with many dedicated, caring and skilled professionals.
But we also know about its problems: Coverage is erratic, incomplete, and can evaporate without notice; and costs are out of control for consumers, businesses, and taxpayers.
We see that right here in Santa Barbara: We swear by our doctors and nurses, hospitals like Cottage provide excellent care, and ground-breaking research happens everyday at UCSB and companies like Medtronic and Inogen.
On the other hand, thousands of our Central Coast friends and neighbors have no health insurance. Just as bad, those with insurance are always at risk of losing it – maybe the insurance company drops them after they get sick, they reach their plan’s coverage limits, or they lose a job that provides health insurance.
And costs just keep going up and up. The most recent illustration: 800,000 Californians with Anthem Blue Cross will see premium increases of up to 40 percent this year.
The health insurance reform legislation Congress just passed will fix these problems and many more.
The bill offers critical protection for those with health insurance. No longer will a wife’s cancer diagnosis or a child’s serious accident cause a family to lose insurance when most needed. No longer will insurance companies be able to put arbitrary annual or lifetime limits on your coverage. And no longer will you be denied coverage because of a so-called “preexisting condition.” This bill stops those unfair practices.
The legislation will bring down costs. It ends co-pays for important recommended screenings such as those for heart disease or cervical cancer. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says premiums could be 14-20 percent lower because of this bill. The independent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts premium increases of nearly 80 percent over the next decade without reform.
The bill expands coverage to 32 million currently uninsured Americans. This includes an estimated 92,000 citizens in the 23rd Congressional District. Young adults will now be able to stay on their parents’ plans up to age 26. More low-income Americans will be eligible for Medicaid. And statewide insurance marketplaces will let small businesses and uninsured individuals join together to buy affordable plans with the kind of purchasing power that large businesses have today. The bill provides assistance to consumers who need help buying a plan and tax credits to small businesses to offset the cost of insurance for their employees.
For seniors, the bill extends the solvency of Medicare by nine years and closes Medicare’s prescription drug “donut hole.” In the 23rd Congressional District, nearly 9,000 seniors and disabled people fall into the “donut hole” every year. Those folks will get a $250 rebate this year and 50 percent discounts on brand name drugs beginning next year. The donut hole will be completely closed by 2020. And, contrary to the claim of the bill’s opponents, there are no benefit cuts for seniors.
Finally, this bill is the largest deficit reduction measure in a generation. According to the CBO this bill will reduce the federal deficit by over $140 billion by 2020 and a whopping $1.2 trillion during the following decade. The bill is estimated by some economists to help the private sector create up to four million jobs over the next decade by bringing down health care costs.
I will not argue this is a perfect bill. For example, it lacks a public option, which would make insurance markets even more competitive and bring down health care costs even more. I am also deeply disappointed the bill contains provisions attempting to restrict women’s access to reproductive health services. I will be working to fix these problems in the months to come.
But I’m also not one to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and with this bill we have made very good reforms. You can find more detailed information on this important legislation on my website.
Central Coast residents have made it clear to me that the status quo on health care is not working. This bill makes common sense reforms to ensure all Americans always have access to affordable, quality care.