America has long been home to the best health care and most advanced life-saving techniques in the world. What we have failed to do is make these achievements available to all Americans at a price that fits the budget of a middle class family. Because of this failure, we have seen costs skyrocket for both our families and our nation.
My recent vote to pass H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, was one of the most important choices of my lifetime. To reach a decision, I drew on numerous sources in order to gather all the information that I could. I read and studied the Senate legislation, the reconciliation bill, the nonpartisan financial findings from the Congressional Budget Office, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report on the cost of inaction. I spoke to several representatives of New York State and our immediate community, and met with Congressman Paul Ryan, one of the leading Republican opponents of these bills. I also held numerous meetings with Upstate New Yorkers from every walk of life -- from the AARP to working families, from labor unions to tea party members who came to my offices, from small business owners to CEOs of community hospitals. When I could not meet with constituents face-to-face, I held a telephone town hall with 3,700 people, during which a quarter of participants said that health care costs was the top concern, but 44 percent were more concerned with jobs. My staff was available in all five of my offices where thousands of calls were logged. The concerns I heard from constituents demonstrated both the need for health care reform to lower costs and to help our entrepreneurs create jobs.
I voted for the legislation because I believe it was an important step toward addressing and correcting the concerns Upstate New York has regarding real health care reform. After studying all the facts, I was presented with a simple choice: Do nothing and further burden our families, our economy, and our entrepreneurs to the tune of $50 billion per year, or take the first steps to reform our system in a way that will pay for itself and help America pull itself out of the recession.
In short, I believe this bill will move America and our communities forward.
IMPACT ON THE NORTH COUNTRY:
As the bill was introduced, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report on the impact that H.R. 4872 is expected to have on New York's 23rd Congressional District. The committee found that approximately 405,000 North Country residents receive health care coverage. Under this health care reform, these policyholders would be able to keep the insurance they have, pay less for preventative care, and no longer have to worry about being denied for a claim based on pre-existing conditions or see limits on their coverage
The legislation is also one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in history, as it provides families with incomes up to $88,000 for a family of four with tax credits to help pay for coverage. In Upstate New York, there are more than 177,000 households that would qualify for this tax cut. In addition to saving families money, the bill will also reduce the cost of uncompensated care for community hospitals and local health care providers by $67 million annually.
In my first few months in office, I have introduced and cosponsored legislation to help small business owners create jobs and put Upstate New Yorkers back to work. H.R. 4872 would allow local small businesses to pool together and benefit from group rate insurance and a greater choice of providers. Northern New York small businesses with 25 employees or less will qualify for tax credits of up to half of their insurance costs. This will apply to 12,600 Upstate small businesses. The legislation will also provide funding for 12 community health centers, creating jobs and spurring economic development in the process.
IMPACT ON SENIORS
The Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act ensures our seniors will receive quality health care at a reasonable price. This legislation puts a stop to rising premiums and unfair practices by insurance companies who drop seniors from coverage because of age. It closes the donut hole within the decade and provides a $250 payment in 2010 for those enrolled in Medicare Part D for their prescription drug coverage. In addition, H.R. 4872 provides free preventative care under Medicare that will keep seniors healthier for longer.