Thank you for contacting me regarding health care reform. I appreciate hearing your concerns on this important and complex issue.
I assure you I have taken your concerns into consideration when forming my position in this debate. I regret that the debate on health care reform thus far has not produced a result to your liking. Unfortunately, this issue has been polarized and politicized so much that it is hardly recognizable. Misinformation abounds, and these misleading facts have been used to spread outright fabrications and scare people. I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter and giving me the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
1. This plan does not impose socialized medicine on the United States. Nowhere in the legislation does it call for a single-payer system. Some have argued that while the bill does not explicitly call for a single-payer system, that every single private insurance company will go out of business when forced to compete with a public option. This is false for several reasons. First, most businesses are going to keep the insurance plans they are already offering to their employees, and those plans are all provided by private insurance. Second, not everyone who must acquire their insurance individually is going to want to enroll in the public plan. While the public plan will have in common with other plans a certain set of benefits, the private options may offer more benefits or consumers may be attracted to their established reputations. Third, insurance companies routinely price their premiums much higher than necessary just because there is no competition in that area to keep them within reasonable boundaries. Thus, while the public plan may reduce their profit margins from their current rates, driving down these costs will not drive them out of business, but will simply keep them competitive. Introducing a public plan into the health insurance market is not socialism, in fact, it is the essence of capitalism. It is introducing consumer choice and competition to drive the market.
2. The proposed bill will not cover illegal immigrants. It explicitly states this at several points in the bill. One example occurs on page 143 of the proposed bill, in Section 246, entitled "No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens", the bill specifically states that "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States." Thus, individuals who are in this country illegally are not covered by this proposed bill. Furthermore, those who do not file taxes in the United States are not eligible to enroll in the proposed public health insurance option.
3. A public health insurance option will increase, not decrease choice for all Americans. As I stated above, a public option will serve to bring down health care costs, and give everyone in every community more choices of health insurance providers and more information for making that choice.
4. Medicare benefits will not be cut. It is true that Congress is trying to find savings in the Medicare system, and a big avenue for paying for this reform will be through Medicare savings, but these savings are not from benefits. The bill simply lays out many ways in which we can increase oversight to decrease fraud and waste. It would implement higher penalties for noncompliance and ensure that seniors are not being put through more procedures than necessary, just so that physicians can collect the reimbursements. Certainly, not all physicians engage in wasteful practices, but some do, and there are a lot of savings that can be found simply by eliminating these practices.
5. The proposed bill does not include any support for death panels or euthanizing senior citizens. If you look at the provision in question, you will see that it is amending a previous bill: the Social Security Act. Specifically, it is amending section 1861, which is a list of definitions for terms and phrases in the bill. Thus, it is simply broadening the definition of what qualifies as "medical and other health services". This way, advance care planning can be covered under Medicare. The government is not making any choices for you, it is simply ensuring that you have all the information you need to make the right decisions for you.
6. We do not have the best health care in the world. We spend twice as much money as other developed nations, but see far worse outcomes in most areas than they do. Furthermore, millions of US citizens do not have health insurance. This is unacceptable, and that is why my colleagues in Congress and I are working so hard to reform our system now.
7. The proposed bill does not fund any abortion services that are not already able to be federally funded (e.g. for pregnancies that result from rape or incest).
The proposed bill certainly needs some polishing. There are details to be ironed out, and provisions that need clarification, but in general the proposed bill would institute many positive changes for our health care system and for our nation as a whole. This is one of the most important pieces of legislation in decades, and I assure you I will keep all of your comments in mind as I consider this bill.
Again, thank you for sharing your views with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I may be of further assistance. Also, I encourage you to visit my website at http://www.house.gov/cleaver, where you can sign up for my electronic newsletter and receive updates on my latest activities as your Representative.
Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress