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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

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Location: Washington, DC


HEALTH CARE REFORM -- (House of Representatives - July 22, 2009)

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Mr. COURTNEY. Mr. Speaker, I also rise tonight to discuss the issue of health care. And again, we've just heard remarks which are part of a campaign really to try and, I believe, and I say this respectfully, mislead and scare people about what it is that the committees of this Congress are taking up and deliberating on. I'm on one of those committees, the Education and Labor Committee. And what my message would be here tonight is that Americans should not be alarmed. In fact, they should feel reassured about the fact that we are finally, in a serious, coherent way, trying to address a broken system. I know it's broken. I come from the State of Connecticut. Earlier this week, on Monday, there was a hearing at the State of Connecticut Department of Insurance where Blue Cross/Blue Shield came in asking for a 32 percent rate increase for its individual health insurance policies that they sell in the State of Connecticut. That's the status quo. That's the so-called patient-driven health care system that we have right now. Thirty-two percent increase. You can't blame that on Barack Obama. You can't blame that on a government-controlled system. That's the marketplace that exists today, and it is bankrupting individuals and families at an alarming rate. Twelve thousand Americans a day are losing their health insurance. What the bill is that we are offering and as part of this effort which the President will be talking about tonight is a way of trying to control those costs and to try and create some sort of stable system for individuals and American families.

Let me give you an example. For a single woman, working at a convenience store, earning about $25,000 a year, if she went out today, before the 32 percent rate increase that Blue Cross is asking for, and tried to buy an individual insurance policy in Connecticut, it would be $381.22 a month for a premium through the Blue Cross plan. It has a $1,500 deductible, 20 and $30 copays for primary care and specialist physicians, respectively, and an annual prescription drug benefit of only $500. The bill that we're working on, which was reported out by the Education and Labor Committee on Friday, for an individual who's earning $25,000 a year, their monthly premium would be $158, less than 50 percent of what an individual is paying today, and that's without some kind of outrageous skyrocketing premium increase which Blue Cross is asking for today under our broken system.

How do you do this? Well, the answer is very simple. And Members of Congress can answer it better than anybody because they should just look in the mirror and see the system that we have today for Members of Congress. We have the opportunity to be part of a purchasing exchange, a purchasing allowance which allows millions of Federal employees across the country to spread risk, to spread cost, and to offer a broader range of choices, private plans which Members of Congress have that opportunity to pick from. And that moderates, it stabilizes the cost of the system and allows the system to operate without these harsh pre-existing condition exclusions which if a person has a heart condition or a diabetic condition, which today in the individual market completely and totally excludes them from buying insurance at all.

Now if you ask your Member of Congress about their health insurance plan and the cost of increase which took place over the last year, you could ask a Member from Ohio, where the minority leader comes from, and what it would show is that there were increases from 2008 to 2009 of only $10 a month for many of the plans. One of the Ohio plans which was offered to Members of Congress actually reduced its monthly payment. And this is because it's just a basic market principle, and that is what the Democratic plan is proposing for all Americans, which is that we will create a large purchasing exchange which will spread risk, which will protect individuals from pre-existing condition exclusions, and which will moderate and stabilize premium costs so that you would not face the 32 percent rate increases that insurance companies like Blue Cross are asking for back home in my State, the State of Connecticut.

We also add a public option as one of the choices that can be selected by Americans who participate in this purchasing exchange. Private plans and a public option as a way of keeping the system honest and making sure that we get every efficiency possible. But no one has to choose that public option. And no provider, no doctor, or hospital has to participate in it.

You would think, from the descriptions on the other side, that people are going to be marched at gunpoint into a government plan. The opposite is completely true. There will be open choice. There will be private plans that will be offered under that purchasing exchange and it will, again, allow people the benefits of spreading risk and spreading costs just like Members of Congress have today. Every taxpayer and every citizen of this country should ask that question of their Member when the time comes to vote: Are you prepared to stand up and vote for a plan which will give us what we give you?

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