Thank you for writing me to share your thoughts on health care reform. It is good to hear from you. Health care reform is one of the most critical issues facing our nation. Our current health care system is unstable and unsustainable. Too many people do not have health care coverage and many of those who have coverage are worried about losing it in this uncertain economy. Businesses and families are finding it harder and harder to deal with increasing health care premiums. In addition, Washington state family budgets cannot sustain the continual rise in health care costs and hidden taxes in the form of rising premiums to cover the uninsured. If we do not get health care costs under control, local, state and federal government budgets will have to take on the weight of rising health care costs. While health care reform may require an initial cost investment, I strongly believe that it will pay off in the long term and the cost letting the system become more unstable is much greater. Without reform to our health care system, premiums will continue to rise, coverage will become more uncertain, businesses will lose competitiveness and it will be harder for Americans to have access to care. After months of hearings and over 50 hours of public markups, I was pleased that on July 15th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Affordable Health Choices Act. The Affordable Health Choices Act lays out policy changes for health care reform in America. This package works to rein in health care costs with a goal of lowering them in the long term and ensure that all Americans have access to high quality, affordable health care coverage. It allows those who like their health insurance to keep it and provides options to those who do not have access to health insurance coverage. This bill includes provisions to implement several key health insurance reforms. For example, insurance companies would no longer be able to refuse coverage to individuals due to preexisting conditions, patients’ out-of-pocket expenses would be limited and all annual and lifetime caps on insurance coverage would be eliminated. The passage of the Affordable Health Choices Act out of the HELP Committee is a major step in the longer process of health care reform. The Senate Finance Committee is also working on many aspects of health care reform and the Affordable Health Choices Act will need to be combined with this legislation in the future. The Finance Committee is expected to release their proposal soon. In addition, the House of Representatives is working on a separate version of health care reform legislation. As the Senate moves forward on health care reform legislation, I will be weighing the many concerns that I am hearing from constituents all across Washington state. As this effort continues, I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind. You can find more information on my Website at http://murray.senate.gov/healthcarereform/
Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sign up for my weekly updates at http://murray.senate.gov/updates. Please keep in touch.
I hope all is well in Vancouver.