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Politics: The Gavel
The Need For Health Care Reform
Without health care reform, the cost of health care for the average family of four is projected to rise $1,800 every year for years to come?and insurance companies will make more health care decisions. House Democrats will introduce a bill tomorrow that reduces health care costs, protects and increases consumers’ choices, and guarantees access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
This afternoon, Speaker Pelosi and Democratic Leaders held a press conference with Phil Feaster, Diane Buch, and Tammy Rostov highlighting why we are reforming health care this year and why it is important to do so–and do so as soon as possible:
Transcript of Phil Feaster’s remarks:
My name is Phil Feaster. Actually, it’s Philip Feaster, and the only person to call me Philip was my mother. Everybody else called me Phil. My mother would call me Philip Allen when she was actually upset with me.
But, anyway, I’m a retired truck driver from Fort Washington, Maryland, and a member of the Alliance for Retired Americans. So this is not a fluke that’s unique to just me. Let me tell you, the donut hole is no treat for seniors.
My generation likes to tell it like it is: The donut hole is a rip-off. You pay money, but get nothing in return.
Can you imagine going to a restaurant where all they give you is an empty plate, but they still force you to pay for a bill? Of course not.
For the first six months of the year, I pay $85 in monthly premiums. In exchange, I receive my Part D benefits for my eight daily medicines. But when I hit the donut hole, for the remaining six months of the year, I must pay for both my $85 monthly premium and the full price for my medicine.
These drugs cost me $700 per month when I’m forced into the donut hole. And, again, this is $700 per month on top of the $85 monthly premium I must pay for half of the year.
I’m forced to pay these premiums while receiving absolutely nothing in return. Why do I keep paying these premiums? Under the Medicare Part D rules, if I stop paying my premiums, I am out of the program for the next year.
The donut hole sure seems like a sweetheart deal for the big drug insurance companies. When I look around, my friends and neighbors in Prince Georges County, Maryland, I see so many of them struggling. Health care keeps costing more while medicine and private insurance keep covering less.
My mother was one of those people. She kept having to cut all the wrong corners with her health. She had a stroke and was paralyzed for the last four years of her life because she had to stretch her medicines too thin just to make ends meet. This is America ? the greatest country ever. Why do we still allow this to happen? I’m hopeful that this will finally be the year we fix our health care mess. We have been talking about this for decades. None of us are getting any younger. We need help, and we need help now.
I am grateful that this legislation will start closing the Part D donut hole and finally finish it off. This bill will help me and millions, like me, as soon as it becomes law. Let’s make this the year that we finally reform health care, thank you.
Transcript of Diane Buch’s remarks:
Hi, everybody. My name is Diane Buch, and I’m here today from Atlanta, Georgia. If there’s, like, trembling in my voice, this is, like, a really emotional subject for me.
There’s my husband, Joe Greear. We’re both now experiencing firsthand the failings of our dysfunctional health care system. We’re here today to show our support for his legislation and to encourage our elected leaders to make sure — make our tough decisions ? make the tough decisions required to ensure that no Americans will be left without quality, affordable health care.
I have had epilepsy since I was 5 years old. It’s really important that I have access to group health insurance because otherwise it becomes a pre-existing condition. I did have coverage through Joe’s job, though when he lost his job last year, we found that due to the small size of his company, the only option I had was to continue coverage through a conversion policy. The price quoted was $2,400 a month. It was, you know, shocking.
Joe found an individual policy, but has had to raise the annual deductible from $2,500 to $5,000 just recently just to afford the rising premiums. After being denied coverage by three companies, I became uninsured on May 1, 2008. Since then, I’ve had to postpone some of my annual exams and opt against trying new and potentially more effective epilepsy medication, and also seek charity care from others to just maintain my current health status.
I have to say my medication was $900 a month, which ? well, that’s another shocking fact. But anyway, the health care ? this health care reform bill will help us by getting rid of exclusions based on pre-existing conditions. It will set up an exchange where we can easily shop and compare plans and setting standard benefit options to plug holes in coverage that could leave us paying tens of thousands of dollars if we get sick.
This bill gives us a reliable option for coverage in the form of a public plan for health insurance companies ? if private health insurance companies fail to meet our needs as they have so far. Joe and I are average Americans. We have worked hard all our lives, and never thought that we would end up in this situation.
We hope that you will do everything that you can to protect people like us and all Americans from the stress and the trauma of losing their health care.
Transcript of Tammy Rostov’s remarks:
Thank you, Chairman Larson.
As he said, I’m Tammy Rostov, and I own a coffee and tea shop in Richmond, Virginia. It’s family owned. I have nine employees. And as a small owner, I know small business needs health care reform and we need it fast.
My dad, a single parent, started the business 30 years ago. I was raised in the store and I’m proud to continue the tradition of running the family business, serving our customers and providing jobs for the people in the community.
My father instilled in me the value of treating an employee like family. For me, that means making sure our employees and their families have important benefits. So we offer health care and retirement benefits.
Lately, this hasn’t been easy. On health care, our commitment to our employees has run up against the harsh reality of ever-rising costs. About four years ago, when the premiums rose beyond what the business could afford, we had to change to a high-deductible plan so that I could continue to offer benefits.
That cut our costs for that year, but over the last four years our premiums have gone up 80 percent, and I can’t afford to pay those premiums.
Our health care system is failing small business. It’s failing business owners like myself. It’s failing our employees. It’s failing our families. And it’s threatening our bottom line.
That’s why I want to thank these leaders in Congress for introducing this critical legislation. This proposal brings new hope for small business struggling with health care. It will help small business by giving us new choices, giving us new bargaining power with the insurance companies, increasing transparency, so we know what we’re getting, and promoting accountability, so we’ll know that we can count on our health care.
This bill would help my business and my employees in a number of important ways. We would be eligible to purchase coverage in the health insurance exchange in the first year it is open, giving us more choices of better, more affordable coverage, including the option of a public health insurance plan.
Instead of spending more than 10 percent of my payroll in insurance coverage, I could save more than $11,000 by paying 2 percent and allow my employees to buy the coverage they want in the exchange.
At least two of my employees would qualify for affordability credits to help pay for their coverage, but these employees are like part of my family, and if I choose to continue to provide coverage for them through the exchange, my business will qualify for a tax credit half the cost of the coverage.
In closing, I want to make one final point: As a small business, the cost we truly can’t afford in health care is the cost of doing nothing. We need health care reform. We need more choices. And we’re willing to contribute our fair share. We’re looking to Congress for leadership on this issue.
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