Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about the most important domestic policy issue that faces our country, and that is the reforming of our health care system, this great debate that this country is having right now.
Before coming to the United States Congress, I served as a State Legislator, both in the House and in the Senate in the State of Arizona, so I had a chance to hear from people all over, from Tombstone all the way up to Flagstaff about the challenges that they faced with health care.
Before I was a State Legislator, I was the CEO of my family's tire business. And running El Campo Tires, I had a chance to make some important decisions for my employees, and that included making sure that they had good health benefits. Unlike many of my competitors, I offered health care upon hire. But year after year I saw double-digit increases when it came to paying for our insurance premium. Now, we weren't a very large company, but I thought it was important to provide those health care benefits. It was probably detrimental to the company, but I thought that was really critical.
We see right now in the United States, as a country, that we spend too much for health care per capita. We spend well more than any other country. Yet we have 47 million Americans right now that have no health insurance. We have probably 20 million additional Americans that are underinsured, and millions and millions every day that worry that the insurance that they have won't cover them, that it won't be enough. Nationwide, premiums have doubled in the last 9 years, which have basically increased three times faster than real wages across the United States.
I represent Arizona's Eighth Congressional District and it's unique because it's burdened in different ways than other parts of the country. This is a border district, one of 10 border districts. A large amount of the geography is rural, where it's very hard to get physicians or nurses to go out there. Many parts of the district are low income. We also have fewer doctors per capita than other parts of the country. From 2001 to 2006, the out-of-pocket expenses in my district went up by 32 percent; and in 2008, there were 950 health care related personal bankruptcies in my district. So we cannot continue to perpetuate the status quo. The time for health care reform is right now. Arizonans need reform that's going to protect us from being denied coverage based on a pre-existing health condition that they might have. Arizonans need reform that guarantees care, even if we lose our job or if we move or if our spouse loses his or
As the health care legislation is being crafted and being discussed right now, we know that it has to be done responsibly. We know we need to pay for it. We can't continue to put today's expenses on to the shoulders of our children and our grandchildren. It is also critical that Americans know that if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. You should be able to make sure that your costs go down and not go up like they're continuing to do. There are savings to be had in our current system. We all know that. So we have to focus on squeezing those costs, every drop. We can do this, and we must do this. So it's really time to make sure, not that we do it fast, but that we do it right because our economy's at stake. Our children, our grandchildren, and America's prosperity are at stake right now with this health reform issue.
So thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the time, and for my constituents back home, the importance that they know that we're going to work to make sure we get this health care legislation right.