I had dropped a note to Jeff Merkley (D-Or.) yesterday and I was going to supplement it with a call to his office today. But it looks like he’s saving me the trouble.
Thank you for contacting me about health care reform. It is an honor to serve as your Senator, and I appreciate knowing your views about this important matter.
I believe we must fix our nation’s broken health care system, and reforming the system is one of my top priorities. The status quo is unacceptable and the cost of inaction is too great. Health care costs are spiraling upwards and the number of uninsured Americans without access to basic health care services continues to grow. It has become increasingly difficult for working families to pay for doctor visits and essential medicine. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, over half of American households cut back on health care due to cost concerns last year. Of the 50 million uninsured Americans, eight out of ten come from working families. Even those with health insurance have suffered due to the high cost of medical care. Sixty percent of personal bankruptcies in the United States are due to health care costs, even though seventy-five percent of those individuals had health insurance.
In an effort to bring relief to American families, I am proud to have voted with a majority of my colleagues on the Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to pass landmark legislation, the Affordable Health Choices Act. This comprehensive legislation would reduce health care costs and assure quality and affordable health care for all Americans, while protecting individuals’ choices in doctors and plans. The bill would make important changes to health insurance by ensuring that no individual is denied health care coverage because of a preexisting condition or have that coverage fail to help when it’s needed most. In addition, under this legislation, individuals would not be subject to annual or lifetime limits on their coverage or see it terminated arbitrarily as a tactic for insurance companies to avoid paying claims.
During the HELP Committee debate, I fought hard to include a strong public insurance option as a major component to the Affordable Health Choices Act. I believe it is important that Americans have a choice between private insurance and public coverage. Specifically, a public option would provide competition to private insurance companies, helping to lower costs while creating a pathway to promote quality-enhancing and cost-cutting strategies to ensure the future viability of our health care system. Most importantly, the public option would ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care, while allowing those individuals who are happy with their current insurance plan to keep it.
In addition, I worked to ensure small business concerns regarding the rising cost of health care were addressed. No matter where I have travelled around Oregon, small business owners have told me they want to offer health care coverage to their employees but are unable to do so because of the prohibitive costs. The American Health Choices Act would give small businesses better options for high value health care coverage by establishing a new marketplace, called insurance exchanges, where small businesses would use their combined buying power to create a market that provides more options with lower costs. I am pleased that I offered an amendment to the bill that passed unanimously and would allow any small business with up to 50 employees the choice to participate in the exchanges. This would mean lower health care costs for 25,000 small businesses in Oregon employing 485,000 workers.
As the Affordable Health Choices Act is considered by the full Senate in the coming months, please know that I will continue to fight for every American’s right to have access to quality, affordable health care. In addition, I will work to make sure the reforms of the HELP Committee are included in the final Senate version of the bill.
Thank you, again, for sharing your thoughts with me. I hope you will continue to keep me informed about the issues that matter most to you.
All my best,
United States Senate
And this is why on Election Day, we have to get off our asses and head to the voting booth. (Although in Oregon, we have mail in ballots but the principle is the same.)
Anyway, thank you, Sen. Merkley.
And remember folks, this ain’t over yet. Not by a Goddamn long shot!
UPDATE: 5:14 PM. Called Ron Wyden’s office in Medford. The person I talked to said that he’s “open” to the Public Option.