Marcia L Fudge

CBC: Health Care - July 27, 2009

Marcia L Fudge
July 27, 2009— U.S. Senate, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. Speaker, I would like to just set the record straight. I've listened to my colleagues from across the aisle, and I do want to make clear to the American people that, if you have health insurance now and you want to keep it, you can. You don't need to change.

I also want to say to the American people that this plan is, one, about choice. It's not about government-run anything. It's about choice. It's about making sure that we spend more time worrying about the people than we do about the insurance companies. So I just want to make sure that people understand.

I'm very curious to understand and to know what my colleague meant when he kept saying they,''they,'' ``they.'' I don't know if he was talking about retirees or about the working poor or if he was talking about minorities or if he was talking about people who have been laid off or about people who have lost their jobs because their companies have closed. I don't know who "they'' is, but certainly, at some point, I'd like to know who that is.

Now to my remarks, Mr. Speaker.

The Congressional Black Caucus, the CBC, is proud to present this hour on health care. The CBC is chaired by the honorable Barbara Lee from the Ninth Congressional District of California. I am Representative Marcia L. Fudge from the 11th Congressional District of Ohio. I am the anchor of this CBC hour.

The vision of the Founding Fathers of the Congressional Black Caucus to promote the public welfare through legislation, designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens continues to be a focal point for the legislative work and for the political activities of the Congressional Black Caucus today.

Tonight, the CBC will focus its attention on health care reform. I am proud to serve on one of the three House committees that authored H.R. 3200, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.

The public health insurance option--also known as the Public Plan--is an essential part of H.R. 3200. The Public Plan is an innovative tool that will move America's health insurance system beyond the status quo and into a system that provides choices and forces private insurance companies to compete. Competition guarantees that all Americans will be able to access quality coverage while preserving what works in today's system and expanding choices and containing costs.

Some argue there is no need for a public plan, as did our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Others say that a public plan will put private insurance companies out of business. I say this: Today's health insurance companies are operating in a manner that is making health coverage increasingly out of reach for the average American. Premiums are soaring higher and higher, and health insurance choices are becoming fewer and fewer.

For example, in my home State of Ohio, since 2000, the average family premiums have increased by 92 percent, that's 9-2, 92 percent. When faced with such an increase, you would think that Ohioans would have a number of choices and could decide to move to another insurer that offers a more competitive premium.

Well, it's not that easy, Mr. Speaker, because the choice of insurance companies is severely limited in the State of Ohio and across America.

In Ohio, the top two insurance providers controlled 61 percent of the health care market in 2008. In fact, 94 percent of the metropolitan areas in the United States are highly concentrated, meaning that one insurance company or a small group of insurance companies dominate the majority of the market.

And the problem is even worse for small businesses. In Ohio, the top 5 insurers control 85 percent of the market that provides health insurance to small businesses. This is what we call a consolidated health insurance market. There is no real competition. So the companies that are monopolizing the market are setting the prices and the standards that have led to more than 1 million uninsured Ohioans and 46 million uninsured Americans.

A public plan will be one of several options within H.R. 3200, the new health exchange that it will provide that is needed to reform our health insurance market.

As I mentioned earlier, H.R. 3200's public plan offers competition. Currently, our health insurance system is inefficient and expensive. Without competition, private insurers have no incentive to improve. By forcing market reforms in the area of administrative costs and through better delivery of services, the public plan will serve as a real competition and set the standard by which other insurers are measured.

The public plan will operate as a guaranteed backup that will ensure everyone that everyone has access to affordable health care no matter what happens. A public plan will give millions of hardworking families peace of mind. Both the public plan and competing private plans will offer a standard benefit package that covers essential health services such as inpatient and outpatient hospital care and maternity and mental health services. The package will also offer preventative services like Well Baby and Well Child Care and screenings for diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Preventative care is a benefit that is important to cutting the cost of health care. Providing preventative care will allow us finally to spend less by keeping healthy people healthy, instead of waiting until someone is very ill and then providing more costly treatment.

Under the standard benefit package, patients will no longer pay for preventative services, and the annual dollar amount spent on health care by consumers will be limited to $5,000 for an individual and to $10,000 for a family. Therefore, no one should ever again face bankruptcy from health care costs.

The private insurance market must be reformed. We cannot afford to do nothing. $100 billion of America's $2.5 trillion in health care spending goes to the cost of administering private insurance. Projections have shown that it is possible to save more than $3 billion in 2009 alone and $40 billion over 10 years simply by reducing administrative spending in health care.

The status quo is unacceptable, Mr. Speaker. Things will only get worse if we continue to let private insurance companies set the standards. Every American risks losing their health insurance and/or seeing their costs skyrocket without action. Families will continue to spend a disproportionately large amount of money on health care expenses.

The cost of an employer-sponsored family health insurance plan will reach $24,000 in the year 2016, an increase of 84 percent if we do nothing to fix our broken system. American businesses will continue to fall behind. Employers' spending on health care premiums will more than double to $885 billion in the year 2019. And one in five employers will stop offering health benefits altogether because of rising costs in the next 3 to 5 years.

Further, our government will not be able to keep up with the rising cost of health insurance. As Americans lose their private insurance, many will be added to the already strained government programs. Combined with the rising cost of care, spending on Medicare and Medicaid will double from $720 billion in 2009 to $1.4 trillion in 2019.

It is time to level the playing field with the public plan.

The public plan will be required to meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance reforms as private plans. Individuals and families will qualify for financial assistance in purchasing health insurance and will have the option to choose among the private carriers and the public plan.

Today's health insurance companies can either be more efficient and provide the coverage that Americans need or make way for the insurers that will agree to be responsive to the financial and health care needs of millions of Americans.

In closing, I would like to highlight two important pieces of health reform legislation. The first, to address the needs of the poor and those with low incomes, I recently introduced the Health Information Technology Public Utility Act of 2009 to facilitate nationwide adoption of electronic health records, particularly among America's free clinics. Although health care IT funding was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, America's free clinics are not eligible for funding under the Act. This piece of legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Senator John Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia.

Lastly, recognizing the health care needs of our Nation's underserved populations, the CBC introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 under the leadership of delegate Donna Christensen. Along with other CBC Members, I urge our colleagues to include this legislation in the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would now like to yield to the distinguished Member from the Virgin Islands, my friend and colleague and an expert in health care reform, Representative Christensen.


I thank the gentlewoman.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to say just two things.

One, of course, is we all know health care needs to be reformed. We all know that the time is now to do it. We know that the cost to not do it is going to be significantly higher the longer we wait.

I just want to say that, people who think that those who are uninsured shouldn't be given an opportunity--nine million of the uninsured today are children. We need to do something about that. Many uninsured are seniors, and we need to certainly do something about that.

So I would hope that all Members of this House would look at the needs of the people we represent and move to do the right thing.

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