The Facts You Need To Know About Healthcare Reform


Date: Sept. 18, 2009

The Facts You Need To Know About Healthcare Reform

At the five healthcare town hall meetings I held across southern West Virginia, at smaller meetings with constituents and groups, and in the many letters, emails, and phone calls I receive in my office each day, I have heard the concerns West Virginians have about healthcare reform. I take those questions and concerns very seriously, and I am doing what I can to make sure that those concerns are considered as the healthcare debate moves forward. We all can come to a consensus about what we want to keep, such as the health insurance we like and what we must fix, such as the ability for insurance companies to place caps on coverage or prevent people with pre-existing conditions from getting coverage they need.

Many people with whom I have met acknowledge that our healthcare system is broken, but some fear the cost will be too high; I assure you the cost of doing nothing will be much greater.

I will do my best to clear up a few of the myths I have heard over the last few months as I continue to do my utmost to help West Virginians understand what is going on in the healthcare debate. I will also continue to meet with constituents and groups, provide resources on my website, send out newsletters, and answer your questions as we move towards a final healthcare bill.

Myth: A government panel or bureaucrat will tell you when to die.

Fact: The fact is that under the bill being debated in the House, decisions about your health will still be made by you, your doctor, and your family. The House bill simply provides Medicare reimbursement to doctors for spending time with patients who wish to speak with their doctors about their values and preferences regarding end-of-life care. Any end-of-life care conversations are only at a patient's request.

Myth: We can't afford healthcare reform at this time.

Fact: Another myth is that we can't afford healthcare- when in reality we can't afford not to fix it. Rising health care costs hurt not only our families and businesses, but are also currently driving up the budget deficit. Insurance costs have increased 131% since 1999 for a year of family coverage, while wages have only increased 38% in the same time period. If we do nothing, the cost of health care premiums will continue to grow.

Myth: Health care reform will end Medicare.

Fact: Medicare is incredibly important to our seniors as they rely on this service for their medical care. Without it, many could not get the care they need and deserve. That is why the healthcare reform bill is about strengthening Medicare for its enrollees. The House bill lowers prescription drug costs by closing the "donut hole", makes preventive care free, ensures that you can keep your doctor, and improves the quality of your care. It's projected that the provisions included in the bill to strengthen Medicare will extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by at least five years through 2022.

Myth: The House bill contains a government-run public option that would force employers to drop their more expensive coverage and force everyone onto a public plan.

Fact: Under the House bill, no one can ever be forced onto the public option. The only way someone would be in the public plan is as a result of their own individual choice of that plan over other private insurance options. Approximately 1 in 10 Americans are expected to enter the Health Insurance Exchange to purchase their own insurance at competitive rates -- and there, they will have a range of choices from a public option to various private plans. Furthermore, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that more employers are likely to provide coverage under the bill -- and just over 3% of Americans will actually choose the Public Option.

Myth: The House bill will harm small businesses -- undermining their ability to create new jobs and imposing large tax hikes -- taking a big chunk out of their hard-earned income.

Fact: In reality, the bill would significantly cut the costs of health care coverage for small businesses by creating competition between insurance companies, and allowing small business owners to enter into an insurance exchange to get the kind of low rates only big businesses have access to right now. Small businesses are offered two kinds of tax credits to help pay for insurance: a permanent tax credit that phases out for bigger businesses and those with higher salaries; and for small businesses with 25 or fewer employees and average wages of less than $40,000 get tax credits of up to 50% of their insurance costs. The vast majority of small businesses -- those with payrolls under $500,000 in the latest version of the House bill -- would be completely exempt from the shared responsibility concept that would require them to purchase insurance for their workers.