Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Finance Committee -- Call your member

Today, the Senate Finance Committee will vote on its not-so-great plan for health insurance reform. It's not great for a lot of reasons -- it doesn't take effect until 2013, there will be a tax on so-called "Cadillac" plans even when the reason the plans are expensive is insurance company excess, the subsidies don't cover enough people, and most of all, there's no public option. But it's better than the status quo. And it's not the final bill -- it's only the product of one of five committees with jurisdiction. But before anything else can happen, the Finance Committee has to vote out a bill. So moving forward today is crucial.

If your Senator is on the Committee, now's the time to pick up the phone. Here is a list of the Finance Committee members:


Max Baucus (MT)
Jay Rockefeller (WV)
Kent Conrad (ND)
Jeff Bingaman (NM)
John Kerry (MA)
Blanche Lincoln (AR)
Ron Wyden (OR)
Charles Schumer (NY)
Debbie Stabenow (MI)
Maria Cantwell (WA)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Robert Menendez (NJ)
Thomas Carper (DE)


Chuck Grassley (IA)
Orrin Hatch (UT)
Olympia Snowe (ME)
Jon Kyl (AZ)
Jim Bunning (KY)
Mike Crapo (ID)
Pat Roberts (KS)
John Ensign (NV)
Mike Enzi (WY)
John Cornyn (TX)

You can find their phone numbers here.

The bill has been debated and amended, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says it will save $81 billion dollars over 10 years.

The insurance industry has released a totally biased report saying that premiums will increase with this bill because the fines on individuals who choose not to purchase insurance are not large enough and they're acting like a bunch of children who didn't to sit with the popular kids at lunch. As long as reform is an economic boon for the insurance industry, they're happy to watch it happen and not try to block it. The minute it looks like they aren't getting everything they want, they change their tune. The report is a farce. Footnote 2 says they are not considering the effects of subsidies and taxes and other revenue-enhancing features of the Finance Committee bill. Well, sure. If all you look at are the parts that cost money, and you ignore all the parts of it that save money, the result looks lop-sided. DUH!

I can only hope that there are enough people like me reading and writing and doing their best to get the truth out to counteract this biased negativity.

The truth is, folks, that no matter what Congress passes, it's likely to need tweaks down the road. Medicare is constantly being tweaked. That's of necessity. This is something of an experiment. Parts of it will work and parts of it won't. I'm nervous, and you have a right to be as well.

But what's absolutely clear is that we cannot maintain the status quo. We can't have a health care system the costs of which grow faster than the rate at which our income grows. We can't afford premium increases of over 20% every year forever. We can't have sick people -- people with pre-existing conditions -- unable to get insurance.

We need change. If we can get a public option out of Washington, premiums will decrease. Indeed, a public option is a complete response to the insurance industry's so-called report because it would be a lower-cost alternative that people could choose, so for insurers to compete, they would have to lower prices.

But even if we can't get that this time around, just the elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions and lifetime caps on benefits would be a huge step forward.

So do your civic duty. Call your Senator today and let them know how you feel. If enough people call, we can make a difference. So just do it. Jennifer

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