Strengthening Insurance For Those Who Have It

I’m delighted to join my colleagues from Colorado and from Alaska
to tackle some of the myths that are being presented about health care
reform.   It’s startling to stand on the
floor and hear increasingly shrill presentations from those who wish to defend
the status quo broken system of health care in America.  And I wonder to myself, do they not hear what
I hear from my constituents about the challenges that they encounter each and
every day if they don’t have insurance – worried about getting sick.  Or, if they have insurance – worried about
that losing that insurance– or worried about the problems and challenges faced
with utilizing that insurance. 

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about one of the most
prevalent myths that health care reform is only about expanding access to those
who don’t have insurance.  Because here
is the truth; health care reform is about improving health care for those who
already have insurance.  Those with
insurance in the United States of America live in a precarious state.  Their rates often go up by double-digit increases
every year, so affordability is hanging by a thread.  Those who have insurance through their jobs
can change jobs and lose that coverage.  They could get dropped from their insurance
because they become sick or injured.  Or
they could find that their insurance has lifetime or annual limits that block
them from obtaining the medical care that they need if they do become injured
or ill.

We want to make health care insurance more stable and secure
for those who have it, and that’s what health care reform will do.  First, health care reform will make insurance
portable.  If you lose your job, you
often lose your coverage and that is a terrible double whammy for American
families.  Health care reform will make
sure that your coverage goes with you if you lose your job or if you choose to
take on a new career. 

Second, health care reform will end dumping, the terrible
practice of insurance companies canceling policies for citizens when those
citizens become seriously ill.  That is
just wrong.  What kind of health care
system is it when you pay insurance premiums for 15 years and then your child
or your spouse or perhaps yourself becomes seriously ill, and you get a letter
from your insurance company saying they’re canceling your insurance?  That is not health insurance; that is a
scam.  And health care reform will end
that scam here in America.  Finally,
health care reform will get rid of annual or lifetime limits that drive people
into bankruptcy even when they have coverage. 

Here is an example from my home state of Oregon.  Alaya Wyndham-Price lives in Lake
Oswego.  She had insurance through her
previous job as an event planner and is currently on COBRA.   Six months ago, Alaya developed a tumor the
size of a golf ball just below her brain and she has had numerous tests
performed to determine the best course of treatment.  Her insurance caps treatment costs at $20,000
annually, and she’s already approached $30,000 of expenses with the diagnostic
tests over the last few months.  Through
COBRA, Alaya’s insurance will renew in January. 
But the surgery to remove her tumor will cost about $50,000 or $30,000
over the amount that her insurance will pay in 2010.  So she’s trying to work as much as possible,
doing freelance writing, taking on projects. 
But, on many days is too ill to do much of anything.  She’s scheduled to see a doctor again soon to
have an expensive M.R.I. test in November. 
But every single medical visit she takes, she goes deeper into
debt.  This is not right, but it is

More than half of bankruptcies in America are due to medical
bills.  And in more than half of those
situations, where medical bills drive people into bankruptcy, the individuals
had health insurance.  No American should
be driven into bankruptcy because he or she becomes sick or injured.  Health care reform will end arbitrary annual
and lifetime limits to make sure Americans get the care they need when they
need it.  Not having to delay care to the
next year in order to benefit from a new annual ceiling. 

In conclusion, the myth is that health care reform is simply
about extending coverage.  The truth is
this: reform will mean better, fairer, and more affordable coverage for the
millions of Americans who already have insurance.