Friday, October 16, 2009

National health reform call-in day

Tuesday October 20 will be a national health reform call-in day. Please mark your calendars. You can find contact info for your member of the House here, and your members of the Senate here. Or you can use the toll-free number to the Capitol switchboard, 1-866-210-3678.

What should you say? Well, as you know I'm strongly in favor of a public option. This is not a government take-over of health care. What would happen is that all the private plans would be offered through the exchange, a marketplace where you could view and compare available plans. In addition to the private plans, a public plan would be offered. If you wanted to choose the public plan, you could. If you're happier sticking with Blue Cross or United Healthcare or Aetna or CIGNA -- if you're one of the lucky ones who doesn't see coverage denials on a regular basis -- you can stay with them. But the public option would cost less because no executives would be paid $1.5 billion bonuses for denying coverage. Administrative costs of a public option would, therefore, be less and so premiums would be lower. In order to compete, the private plans would then have to lower premiums.

There are other ways to force private plans to lower premiums, but they're not even on the table. You could limit executive pay, for example. You could cap premium rate increases at the same rate at which incomes grow each year. But a public option that would compete with private options is more in synch with free market ideals. And a public option would save over $25 billion over 10 years, or even more if reimbursement rates -- the rates paid to doctors, hospitals, labs, etc. -- were tied to Medicare rates.

So if you agree that it's important to have robust competition, you might tell your members of Congress that you support a public option.

If you have a story -- if you've suffered at the hands of health insurers -- tell your story.

If you feel strongly about elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions and eliminations of lifetime caps, say so. If you want these sorts of insurance market reforms to take effect immediately, that's a really important point because otherwise, they won't take effect until 2013.

If you agree that private plans that administer Medicare shouldn't be paid any more than it costs for the government to administer Medicare (a savings of about $220 billion), chime in.

And if you just want to say we need change now, that would be great.

What you should NOT do is nothing. If everybody who reads this makes a call to his or her two Senators and one member of the House of Representatives, we may actually make a difference. Three phone calls. They'll be short -- the staff on the Hill doesn't want to have long conversations. It won't take you long. Indeed, if you'd rather email than call, go for it. But please do something.

If you care about chronic illness, you have to be for reform. It's as simple as that. Jennifer

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