Friday, December 18, 2009

Health Care Reform Now, Implementation in 4 Years

Over the past months I have sent several emails and called our Senators many times to express my opinion and solutions for health care reform. While I have been able to get timely responses, although the same form letter, from Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) the same cannot be said for Sen. Franken (D-MN). Our two Senators have been working hard to eliminate the tax proposed on medical device companies to which they have been able to lessen the rate of tax. Yesterday, I finally received an email from Sen. Franken on the topic of health care reform and here is what it said:

Dear Chris,

Thank you for contacting me about health reform. I appreciate you sharing your views on this issue of critical importance.

When I traveled around the state during the month of August, Minnesotans were asking three basic questions about health care. How are we going to bring down the costs of health insurance? What happens if one of my kids has a pre-existing condition, and I lose my job, or want to switch to a better job? If something bad happens to my family, are we going to have to sell the house or go bankrupt trying to pay off the medical bills? These are the questions I heard most, and they are all great questions. And now they are the ones that I'm focusing on in the Senate.

We must pass health reform this year because too many Minnesota families are burdened with high health care costs, and are afraid of losing the coverage they have. Premiums for Minnesota residents have risen 90 percent since 2000, and 444,000 Minnesotans went without health insurance in 2008. If we don't act now, Minnesota families will pay an average of 40 percent of their annual income in health care costs by 2016. This path is unsustainable.

If you or your spouse loses a job, hits a rough patch or falls sick, you should not need to worry about health insurance. And if you want to pursue a small business venture but are afraid to leave your current job, concerns about health insurance shouldn't stop you.

Health reform will bring real change for Minnesota. If we pass health reform, insurance companies won't be able to deny you coverage or charge more because of pre-existing conditions. There will be no annual or lifetime caps on benefits. Minnesotans without insurance would be able to buy a high-quality plan through the health insurance "Exchange," which works like a Travelocity for health insurance. For Minnesotans who are having trouble making ends meet, there will be subsidies to purchase Exchange plans, similar to the current MinnesotaCare program.

Every day that I'm here in Washington, I'm proud that Minnesota sets the standard for health care quality in this country. Health systems like the Mayo Clinic provide coordinated, patient-centered care that the rest of the nation can look to for leadership. Minnesota's not-for-profit health insurance companies also create a unique environment which puts patients before profits. Minnesota's commitment to health care quality is commendable, but I know we can still do better.

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I recently introduced a bill with the Minnesota model in mind that requires insurance companies to spend at least 90 percent of health insurance premiums on health services, not wasteful administrative costs and profits. I've also introduced S. 2734, the Diabetes Prevention Act, which is bipartisan legislation to help the 57 million Americans with pre-diabetes to make healthy lifestyle choices and prevent diabetes from developing. This will save lives and money, in Minnesota and across the country. 

In the coming weeks, I'll be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move sensible health reform legislation that will benefit Minnesotans by bringing much needed quality, affordability, and security to our health care system. Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind throughout this process.

Thank you again for contacting me, and please don't hesitate to do so in the future regarding this or any other matter of concern to you.



Al Franken
United States Senator

I agree with Sen. Franken that pre-existing conditions ought not to be something that insurance companies disqualify people for and agree that premium hikes are on an "unsustainable" path. Where I differ with Sen. Franken is the importance of passing reform before the end of the year. Now, if the reform before Congress actually did reform the industry I would support a push to pass health care reform prior to year end. A question I sent to Sen. Franken and Sen. Klobuchar, both via email and by phone, was this: While we all acknowledge that premiums, affordability, and cost are all factors that are pushing reform for the health care industry, why then will the United States government take the next four years collecting taxes before implementing reform?

Sen. Franken said, "Health reform will bring real change for Minnesota" in his letter above but what the Senator fails to say is that it will not bring "real change" until four years after it is signed. Why is this? If health care reform is drastically required, why then delay the implementation? Just as I struggle with the notion that a public option will increase competition to the point that will reduce premiums and save costs, I struggle with the notion that we will be taxed for four years before implementation of reform. Plus, reform that is being debated is nothing but a band aid. President Obama ran on the stance that the debate on health care would be transparent, yet groups like PHARMA and AARP have met privately with Obama to cut deals. President Obama has brought the Democrat Caucus to the White House for private conversations. Where is the transparency?

Do our elected officials believe that American's are na├»ve to believe that if reform is passed and not implemented for four years after that that health care insurance company will not use that time to get all they can? For those readers that live in Minnesota take a moment to send a message to our Senators: .
Now, Sen. Reid plans to have around the clock debate in hopes to pass a bill out of the Senate, how is debate at 1 am open and transparent to the American public?