Here's my bottom line: No citizen -- rich or poor, young or old -- should be denied access to affordable health care. Period. And no business should be be pushed to the brink of bankruptcy simply because it cares for its employees.
After more than 25 years helping to heal the wounds of families in my District, I understand our health care crisis is beyond a Band-Aid remedy. I'm pro-cure, and so are American families. Washington should be, too.
And until it is, I will decline my Congressional health coverage.
Now, Rep. Kagen has introduced something else to the discussion: legislation that alters the "pre-existing condition" concept.
Our Constitution protects every citizen against discrimination, the result of long and hard-won gains by ordinary people who for decades showed extraordinary courage fighting for change. Applying these fundamental gains to our health care system is the right thing to do, because my patients and my constituents cannot hold their breath any longer.
That's why I've introduced the No Discrimination in Health Insurance Act. This essential legislation will guarantee access to affordable care for every citizen in America by bringing an end to discriminatory practices employed by insurance companies who deny life-saving coverage to millions of Americans solely because of their pre-existing medical conditions.
The grim reality is our Constitution does protect you against discrimination, until you become ill. Well, my legislation puts discrimination where it belongs -- in the past.
More description of the bill directly from Kagen:
The essential elements of this necessary legislation are: (1) No Discrimination due to pre-existing conditions, (2) Open Disclosure of all prices, and (3) Every Citizen is allowed to Pay the Lowest Price available. These ideas must be included in any successful comprehensive health care reform legislation.
At this very early step in the process, I am pleased to have the encouragement and support of many of my freshman colleagues, AFSCME and Families USA. I am looking forward to presenting this bill and these ideas in a Congressional hearing this spring.
Surely, the insurance companies will oppose this. But first, Kagen's bill need to pass Ways and Means and make it out of committee before further action is taken. The bill is HR 5449 and like other health care bills from SCHIP to the Langevin-Shays universal health care bill, it may or may not go anywhere in an election year. Sometimes, these bills are little more than posturing. Chris Shays is the last House R in New England, and the CT-04 Republican survives by talking like a moderate in even-numbered years; Jim Langevin, the Democrat from RI-02, has introduced this bill before though this is the first time Shays has signed on).
Some of Shays' opponents questioned his motivations for backing Langevin now. The Democratic representative offered similar American Health Benefits plans in 2004 and 2005, but they never reached the House floor for a vote.
Whether they advance this year or not, these bills are very much likely to set the table for the health care plans and proposals from the Presidential candidates as November gets closer.
HR 5449 isn't single payer (more about that here), and it isn't universal health care (see HR 676). But with backing from AFSCME and Families USA, it has a chance of passage, and might even out the playing field on a few major issues. As with SCHIP, passage of any of these bills does not preclude single payer discussions.
We know health care is a constant 'issues that matter' election item for the public along with Iraq and the economy. This is a welcome addition to the discussion, and a piece (albeit incomplete) of the larger whole. Kudos to Kagan for introducing it; the net effect of the legislation remains to be seen, and whether incrementalism in health reform can truly be sequentialism in practice.
The American carmakers’ problems underscore the need for a government-backed system of universal health care, which would relieve some of the costs that have made competing so much harder.
More to come, on all fronts.
Graph from December Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.