Important Healthcare Update
Ihave spent the last three months reaching out to constituents andlistening to your concerns about healthcare reform to make certain thatwe develop the best possible legislation. I held four Town HallMeetings and five Telephone Town Hall Meetings, reaching over 80,000constituents from every part of our Congressional District. I'veaddressed each and every question, and considered all the suggestionsconstituents offered. Over 3,000 Town Hall Meetings were held acrossthe country by other Members of Congress. Now, we are on the thresholdof achieving an extraordinary goal, and that is to pass historiclegislation to make health insurance available to every American.
In the House of Representatives, we have a "blended" bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act,which merges the best parts of the versions drafted by the threecommittees with jurisdiction over the bill. I'm very proud that most ofthe components that I support and voted for as a member of the HouseEnergy and Commerce Committee, made their way into the final package,including a public option. The bill will fix what is broken andpreserve what is successful about the American healthcare system. Itwill provide extensive new protections for all health care consumers,rein in the skyrocketing costs which are breaking the budgets offamilies and businesses, and extend coverage to all Americans, whilesaving the government $30 billion over 10 years.
With healthcare costs far outpacing inflation, our country isstruggling to keep up. We must widen the insurance pool to include allAmericans, focus on preventive care, and bring healthcare costs down.We simply cannot sustain the status quo.
Here are the highlights of the legislation in the House of Representatives:
•A new Health Insurance Exchange,a one-stop comparison shopping marketplace, including a public optionto compete with private insurers to help lower costs and improvecoverage.
•Affordability credits to help low-income Americans buy insurance
•Improved Medicare benefitsby closing the prescription drug "donut hole" immediately to lower drugprices for seniors faster, and extend the solvency of the MedicareTrust Fund.
•Extended coverage for young Americans, allowing them to stay on their parents' health insurance plans up to their 27th birthday.
•An end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, heart conditions, or cancer; and prohibiting health insurance companies from dropping coverage if someone becomes sick
•Elimination of co-pays for preventive and wellness care
•Annual caps on out-of-pocket expenses at $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for families
•Removal of yearly or lifetime caps on private health insurance policies.
•Reduce thedeficit through revenue savings and Medicare efficiencies. There willbe additional savings based on access to early and preventivetreatments. The savings are actually greater than the CongressionalBudget Office projections.
Some of the reforms will take place immediately, includingthe prohibition of the abhorrent practice of "rescission," the droppingof sick patients in order to not pay their expensive healthcare bills.It will end discrimination based on pre-existingconditions, eliminate lifetime caps on insurance plans, and spend lessthan 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care.
Beginning in 2013, a health insurance "Exchange" will be available forthose Americans who cannot obtain insurance through their employers.The Exchange is a health insurance clearinghouse to provide consumerswith one-stop-shopping for the numerous insurance plans on the market,including the public option. Consumers will have the ability to goonline, call a hotline, or read printed information that providesclear, concise comparison information about different health plans,such as cost and minimum benefits. Finding insurance, signing up andusing a plan will be user-friendly, not cost-prohibitive, complicatedor terrifying.
Seniors will benefit from the Affordable Health Care for America Actbecause of provisions that strengthen and improve Medicare. The billlowers Medicare drug prices by closing the coverage gap or "donuthole." It reduces inefficiencies and program costs to help Medicareremain solvent without cutting benefits. It improves coordination andincreases the quality of care for seniors with diabetes, high bloodpressure, and other chronic conditions. It eliminates co-pays forpreventive office visits.
Drafting thisbill has not been easy, but I have confidence that our work will payoff with dividends - a healthier population and lower costs. I lookforward to voting for the Affordable Health Care for America Actwhen it comes to the House floor and I will continue to update you asthe bill moves forward. The Senate is working to merge the two billsthey've written, and then vote on their blended bill. After the Housebill and the Senate bill are combined, the final bill will be voted onby both bodies and then sent to the President for his signature.
If you have any questions or comments, let me hear from you. I'm proudto represent a Congressional District where my constituents areinformed and ask serious-minded, thoughtful questions, and provide mewith valuable feedback. You have made this historic legislation evenbetter.
Anna G. Eshoo