October 13, 2009
Thank you for contacting me to share your concerns about the public plan option and health care reform. Your views are important to me, and I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.
I am committed to health care reform that keeps the best of our current system and fixes what is broken. This is an important debate that impacts all of our families. I want you to have the most-up-to-date accurate information on the proposals being considered in the House of Representatives so that you may participate in this national dialogue on the future of our health care system.
We all need to ask how health care reform would impact us and our families. If you get insurance through your employer today, you will continue to do so under the proposals. If you are self-employed or uninsured, you will have the option to purchase insurance through a new Health Insurance Exchange. The Exchange would be a one-stop-shopping location where people could choose to buy a range of private plans or a new public plan. If your income is below a certain level, you will get a voucher that you can apply to any of the private plans or the proposed public plan. If you are on Medicare, that will stay exactly the same, with some improvements.
I also want to be clear about some misconceptions about the proposals. First, the proposals are not, as some have claimed, "socialized medicine" or a "government takeover" of health care. Socialized medicine is a system in which the hospitals are owned by the government and doctors are employees of the government. Under the proposals in Congress, the majority of Americans will continue to receive insurance through private insurers, from private hospitals, and from doctors in private practice. Some people have argued that the proposed public health insurance plan is a government takeover of health care. This claim is simply false. People who do not get insurance through their employer will simply have the choice of signing up for a private insurance plan, or the proposed public health insurance plan. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that only about 3% of Americans will be covered by the proposed public plan.
Second, let me be absolutely clear that undocumented immigrants will not be covered under the proposals. Here is what the House health care reform bill says: "SEC. 246. NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS. Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States." In other words, the House bill explicitly prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving any Federal dollars to subsidize health insurance.
Despite some misinformation about Medicare, the reform proposals actually improve and strengthen Medicare - by enhancing drug coverage, eliminating co-payments for preventive services, and ensuring Medicare remains solvent for our seniors, among other benefits. One of the components of the proposals would gradually close the donut hole in the Medicare Part D benefit beginning in 2011. By progressively increasing the initial coverage limit and decreasing the annual out-of-pocket expenses, the donut hole would steadily be eliminated, thereby providing more coverage and lower prescription drug costs for thousands of Americans.
Please continue to be in touch as Congress continues to work on this issue. My office will continue to provide information about the latest proposals.