President Barack Obama has been clear about the urgency of enacting health insurance reform this year. I support his efforts and believe that every American — those with insurance and those currently without it — will be far better off after we have enacted his proposed reforms. Those of us who support real reform understand that the cost of inaction will be devastating for America.
Each year we kick the can down the road, families shoulder increasing premiums and higher co-pays for fewer benefits. By 2020, nearly a quarter of a family’s income will be spent on health care premiums.
Likewise, our nation’s businesses are under enormous pressure to control rising health insurance costs and many are dropping coverage. For small businesses, the cost of inaction has been particularly devastating. Most small businesses do not cut their coverage because they don’t want to offer health insurance to their employees; they cut coverage because they simply cannot afford it.
And our nation’s fiscal future depends on whether we address health insurance reform. Just bending the curve in health care spending will knock trillions of dollars off our national credit card.
America’s Affordable Health Choices Act will mean lower health care costs, stopping insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and a guarantee that you will never again be at risk of losing your health insurance if you lose or change a job. Our plan means protecting Americans’ choices of doctors and health plans and ensuring all Americans have access to quality, affordable care. And we must do all of this without increasing the federal budget deficit.
Don’t get me wrong. There remains enormous pressure from entrenched special interests to do nothing. These interests have seen previous Congresses and previous presidents try and fail to enact reform. We must not repeat this tragic history.
Instead, it’s critical to examine how our reforms will offer greater access, stability and affordability for both those who already have insurance and those who need insurance.
First, for those who get insurance from their employer, Medicaid, Medicare or the Veterans Administration, nothing in our plan will require you to change doctors or coverage. Unfortunately, employers can always drop coverage today for any reason, and you’re left without any options. Our bill will make sure that you have access to quality, affordable options in these worst-case scenarios.
Second, those without insurance and small businesses will be able to use their numbers to ensure real choice and competition in the new insurance exchange. These 30 million or so Americans will be able to pool their influence to ensure both choice and competition in a market that has become so dysfunctional and expensive. Affordability credits will be available for those purchasing insurance through the exchange so that everyone can get basic coverage.
And finally, we end the insurance abuses and horror stories we’ve heard so much about for too long: denying care for a pre-existing condition, dropping coverage just because you get sick, and an endless scourge of medical bankruptcies.
If we fail to enact these reforms, insurance companies will continue to call the shots, not patients and not doctors. Premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to rise faster than inflation. People with insurance will see their costs rise by an average of $1,800 per year, every year. And insured people will remain at risk of losing coverage at any moment or having claims denied because of pre-existing conditions.
It’s clear that if we fail to enact these reforms, every American, every employer, every small business will all pay the price — but insurance companies will continue to enjoy soaring profits. There’s no question who benefits from the status quo.
President Barack Obama made health care reform his top domestic policy priority because he understands that America’s long-term prosperity depends on shrinking long-term health costs, increasing the quality and efficiency of our system, and ensuring that every American has access to affordable, quality care.
The American people are demanding access to quality and affordable health care. I am confident we will respond to their demands.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) is chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.