The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Maine (Mr. Allen) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. ALLEN. Mr. Speaker, we have a health care crisis in America. Rising health care costs are overwhelming individuals, families and businesses, large and small. We have a staggering 41 million individuals, nearly one in six Americans, without health insurance. In America, that is just not fair.
Millions more Americans have only catastrophic coverage, with $5,000 to $15,000 deductibles. Others have policies with copays so high that basic health care needs, including preventive and diagnostic service, are not met. Many families are literally one serious illness away from bankruptcy.
To fix our broken economy, we have to fix our broken health care system. We must build a stronger, more effective health care system before it is too late. The future of our country and our ability to compete in the global economy depend on it. I believe that every American has a right to quality, affordable health care that doesn't blunt the competitive edge of employers or unduly burden taxpayers. It is time for bold action.
I have created the Healthy Americans Plan to relieve the strain on families and individuals, ease the burden on businesses and nonprofits and drive down costs. It builds on the strengths of the existing American health care system, but provides new and better choices for businesses, the self-employed, families and individuals.
My plan will offer quality, affordable health insurance choices like those available to Members of Congress. My plan will help small businesses offer employee health coverage by providing them with a refundable tax credit. It also improves access to medical care in rural areas and provides relief for middle-class families and individuals who are struggling to afford health insurance.
The key elements of my plan include the following:
All Americans, including the self-employed and owners and employees of small businesses, will be guaranteed the freedom to purchase a quality plan that is affordable and right for them.
Americans who like their current health care coverage will have the security of knowing they can keep it.
Insurers will have to compete for business on the basis of cost and quality, not by profiting from and discriminating against people because of age or preexisting conditions.
National choices will include private plans as well as a nationwide option, a
nationwide public option. Employees enrolled in the national plan will be able to keep their plan even if they change jobs, move to a different State or have changes in their medical condition.
Costs will be driven down, with comprehensive measures designed to improve quality and promote efficiency, including investing in health information technology.
Under my plan, people aged 55 to 65 will be allowed to buy into Medicare to provide security to early retirees, who are often charged higher premiums based on their age and risk of incurring higher medical costs.
My plan ensures that all children have access to health insurance by expanding the SCHIP program and improving outreach and enrollment.
It eliminates barriers so parents can cover their children up to age 25 under their family insurance plan.
Middle-class Americans deserve a health care system with affordable insurance premiums and access to the best possible care. Small business owners need a system that allows them to stay competitive and provide good coverage for their employees.
Older Americans and younger Americans, two of our most vulnerable populations, need a system that guarantees access to necessary care, regardless of income level.
We need experienced, dedicated leadership to address the fundamental shortcomings of our existing health care system. My Healthy Americans Plan will make the system more efficient and cost-effective and will improve access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.