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Op-Ed: Stakes Too High For Shouting Match


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Op-Ed: Stakes Too High For Shouting Match

If you've watched cable news, listened to the radio or read a national newspaper in the past week or so, you know that around the country important discussions on health care reform at town hall meetings have been derailed by shouting matches, death threats and fist fights.
Tomorrow, I will attend a town hall discussion on health insurance reform in Santa Fe at the Unitarian Church.
A point of great pride for me is the respect that New Mexicans grant each other. I have seen it in my travels throughout the district from Farmington to Taos to Portales — and everywhere in between. Whether it is a polite, discussion or a friendly hello that you'll get from someone walking down the street, you can always count on a special type of courtesy from your fellow New Mexicans. That is why I have high hopes for tomorrow's discussion.
I want to hear the concerns some have about health insurance reform. I want to hear the questions and stories they may have. I want to hear what is and what isn't working for them now. And there is a lot of misinformation out there that I look forward to correcting. If at the end of the night we still disagree about the dire need for health insurance reform, then I hope we can do it respectfully. The stakes are too high for this important discussion to be dragged down by a shouting match.
Many New Mexicans who have coverage have gone without a procedure or doctor's visit because they can't afford it. Often people wait too long before seeing a doctor because of cost concerns, only to need more extensive treatment for problems that have worsened over time. And too many have suffered when their insurance companies refused to pay their medical bills, even though they had coverage.
Even more families are being squeezed by the rising cost of health care, and it will only get worse if we do not reform our system. Since 2000, health care premiums have doubled while wages have gone up by just three percent. The average American family already pays an extra $1,100 in premiums every year to cover the costs of the uninsured. It's going to get worse, too. Under our current system, the cost of health care for the average family is projected to rise $1,800 every year. That's money they won't be able to spend on groceries, mortgages or college savings. This is why this discussion is so important.
Families that do have health insurance are suffering from higher costs and less stability — many of those insured are a job loss, illness, or accident away from losing coverage altogether, putting homes, dreams of college, and their futures at risk. This is why these important discussions need to take place.
I deeply believe that we need reform that provides stability and security, lowers costs, and makes health care more accessible. It's not right that people are being denied care based on a pre-existing condition. If you have worked hard and played by the rules, you shouldn't go without coverage because your employer drops your insurance, you change jobs, or you are out of work. You should have stable and secure coverage. Most importantly, reform should provide peace of mind, not only for those who have struggled with insurance companies for their entire lives, but also for the rest of us who are one injury or illness away from that painful struggle. This is why we need to have a serious conversation about health insurance reform.
Health insurance reform is one of the most important issues that we have faced. It is my hope that you are able to join me and others tomorrow evening to give health insurance reform the type of substantive, thorough discussion that the issue deserves.

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