Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It is a pleasure to come and join my colleagues here on the floor.  I know that when all of my colleagues go home, they hear stories from their constituents about our broken health care system, and that’s certainly what I hear.  I hear it in my town halls, I hear it on the street as people stop me to share their stories, and I certainly hear it in my mail.

These are just a few of the stories that citizens in Oregon have sent to me, just to give you a sense of the type of frustration that we’re hearing.

“Last year,” Don writes, “My premium went up 65 percent even though I have made no significant claim against my policy.”

Or we can turn to Jane, who says, “We are subject to being turned down for health insurance because I have a chronic illness.”

Or to Adrienne, who observes that, “The medical debt was crushing and we were forced to file for bankruptcy.”

Or to Amanda, who says, “My daughter cut her finger.  I took her to emergency, the hospital is a network provider, the ER physician said she needed surgery.  Ok, what do I know? They are the experts.  It turns out the surgeon was not a network provider, she billed me over $9,000. I have little hope.  Do I file for bankruptcy?”

Or Art, who says, “In less than five years, I had to change my health insurance five times.  It was never a matter of choice, I simply had to take whatever plan my employer decided to offer.”

Or Dagne, who observes, “When I started to fill out my insurance I had questions such as, ‘Have you ever had,’ for instance, I had asthma,” and goes on to describe his challenges.

And the list goes on, and on and on.  And that’s why we’re in this health care dialogue, because we need to fix a health care system that is broken for working Americans.  Now the bill that we have passed and the president has signed has three terrific things: 

It creates state-based markets for health care policies, where consumers can shop for the best policy.  And these markets will increase choice and competition.  Second, the bill ends insurance company practices that victimize our working families, practices like turning people down for pre-existing conditions, or dumping them off of their policies when they are injured or when they have a disease.  And third, it invests in our provider workforce to counter the rapid retirement of baby boomers.  Out in Oregon we’re going to lose 20 percent of our primary care physicians in the next five years, while many of us, as baby boomers ourselves, are going to need more health care.  So those things are huge challenges.

This bill takes a stride.  It’s very significant. And this week we will work to pass an up-down vote, on an up-down vote pass a bill that will make further improvements to a bill that the president signed just yesterday.  So I am pleased to join my colleagues in this fight to repair a broken health care system that just isn’t working for our working citizens.