Senate Democrats

Health Care Stability and Security for All Americans

·         Reduce costs to make health care affordable

·         Protect a patient’s choice of doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans

·         Assure quality affordable health care for all Americans

Health Care Reform Talking Points

Status Quo is Unsustainable

·         Reform has been delayed for too long, and it cannot wait any longer.

·         The status quo is unsustainable for American families and businesses.  For most American families, the status quo means paying more each year for health insurance, getting fewer benefits, and being at risk of losing their coverage all together if they lose their job, switch jobs, move, or get sick.

·         Every day in America, families are struggling with the crushing cost of health care that threatens their financial stability, leaves them exposed to higher premiums and deductibles, and puts them at risk for a possible loss of health insurance as employers struggle to provide adequate health care coverage.

·         Americans value their relationship with their doctor and the care they receive, but as costs rise and insurance benefits erode, they are asking for reform that protects what works and fixes what’s broken.

·         Since 2000, employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled, and health care premiums have grown three times faster than wages.  Even for people with health care, all it takes is one stroke of bad luck to become one of the nearly 46 million uninsured – or the millions who have health care, but can’t afford it.

·         Today, there are people who say we need to defer health care reform – that during a time of economic crisis, we’ll have to accept the status quo because we cannot afford to fix our health care system.  What these people fail to acknowledge is that the skyrocketing cost of health care – costs that are straining family budgets, crippling businesses, and consuming government budgets – is one of the greatest threats there is to America’s fiscal health.

·         That is why we cannot delay this discussion any longer.  Health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative.  If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy, then we must address the crushing cost of health care this year.

Bringing Everyone Together for Reform

·         While previous attempts at health care reform have failed, this time is different.  This time, the call for reform is coming from the bottom up, from all across the spectrum – from doctors, nurses, and patients; unions and businesses; hospitals, health care providers, and community groups; mayors, county officials, state legislators, and governors; and Democrats and Republicans.

·         In early May, many of these same stakeholders that led the charge to block reform in 1993 came together to say that reform can no longer wait.  These industry groups – insurance companies and hospitals, drug companies and doctors, and labor – are coming together to do their part to reduce the annual health care spending growth rate.  The same organization that brought us the famous Harry and Louise ads has now come together to acknowledge that even Harry and Louise want and need health care reform.

·         Working together with the President and members of Congress, the groups have begun to take historic steps to ensure that health reform will rein in health care costs for families, businesses, and the government.  As a result of the health care industry’s historic commitment to the President to reduce cost growth by $2 trillion over the next ten years, the average American family will save approximately $2,500 by 2019.

·         In addition, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus recently announced that pharmaceutical companies have agreed to help close the “doughnut hole” in prescription drug coverage, which will help millions of seniors who are currently subject to crushing out-of-pocket expenses.

Congressional and Presidential Action So Far

·         Now Congress has begun the hard work of drafting legislation that will:

o   Reduce costs to make health care affordable

o   Protect a patient’s choice of doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans

o   Assure quality affordable health care for all Americans

·         We are engaged in the process of determining how we can lower costs; protect a patient’s choice of doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans; and assure quality affordable health care for all Americans.  Working together, our goal is to enact health care reform by the end of the year.

·         In the past few months, Congress and the President have done more to advance the goal of providing quality, affordable health care for all Americans than has been done in the past decade.  We’ve provided and protected coverage for eleven million children from working families and for seven million Americans who have lost their jobs in this downturn.  We’ve made the largest investment in history in preventive care and wellness; invested in computerized medical records that will save money, eliminate waste, ensure privacy, and save lives; and launched a new effort to find a cure for cancer in our time.  Congress passed a budget that includes a historic commitment to health reform.  This action is a key step forward, and it did not happen when we last attempted to reform health care 15 years ago.

·         The President acknowledges that all parties won’t always see eye to eye as the details of health care reform are determined.  There are many areas of agreement that do exist, and these will serve as the starting point of this process.

·         In fact, most of the bills that have been released have a great deal in common – they begin to provide American families the stability that is threatened by the health care status quo:

o   They guarantee the availability of quality affordable health care for all Americans so you don’t have to worry about being denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, if you’re sick, if you move, or if you lose or switch your job.

o   For the first time, insurance companies won’t be able to discriminate against people who are sick or charge different premiums because of gender.

o   For the first time, all Americans who can’t afford insurance will have quality and affordable choices and will receive premium assistance based on their ability to pay.

o   Americans will be able to compare health plans and shop for the best price and plan that suit their needs.

o   Small business, the backbone of our economy, will receive tax credits to make coverage more affordable and to help them compete and grow.

o   Investments in prevention and wellness will help make Americans healthier, and we can reduce health care costs.

o   Each and every bill keeps faith with the fundamental principle that the President laid out for reform – “If you like what you have, you can keep it.”  Nothing in any bill will take this choice away from Americans.”

·         We can also all agree that the only way we can rein in the federal budget deficit is by reforming health care.  If we don’t act, by 2020, one out of every five dollars we spend as Americans will be in health care.  By 2040, it’ll be one of three dollars.

·         To get this done, we can all agree that we need to eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse in the health care system and in government health programs.

·         Let’s save money and protect Americans by helping doctors and hospitals with the tools they need to reduce medical errors, hospital infections, and preventable hospital readmissions.

·         Let’s control costs and improve health by giving doctors the very best information so that they can provide better care, not just more care.  And always remember that with this health reform, doctors make decisions with their patients and not the insurance industry or government bureaucrats.

·         We can also agree that if we make health insurance affordable for Americans and millions more receive coverage, this will save money for American families with insurance by ending the “hidden tax” Americans who have insurance pay to subsidize the unpaid emergency room costs of care for the uninsured – an existing burden that costs each American family with insurance over $1,000 per year in higher premiums.

·         Finally, we can agree that if we want to translate these goals into policies, we need a process that is as transparent and inclusive as possible. 

·         In this effort, every voice must be heard.  Every idea must be considered.  Every option must be on the table.  Everyone must accept that no one will get everything they want, and no proposal for reform will be perfect.  But when it comes to address our health care challenges, we can no longer let the perfect be the enemy of the essential.

Derived from “Reducing Costs, Preserving Choice, and Assuring Quality Affordable Health Care For All Americans,” The White House, July 2009.

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