Monday, March 22, 2010

Ron Klein responds to my message

I just received an e-mail from Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, in response to an e-mail I sent him urging not to support the health care reform bill. Here's what he said:
Dear Ms. Pfaff,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the various proposals to reform healthcare in America. I appreciate hearing your concerns on this important issue and welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you know, over the past year we have conducted a national debate about health insurance andhealth care reform. Throughout this time, I held dozens of meetings all over South Florida with constituents and professionals in the health field. These meetings informed me as I helped to shape the final bill in Congress.

I understand that you had asked me to oppose this legislation. Please know that I recognize your concerns with this bill, and because of your input, I worked to improve the bill over the past weeks and months. Some of the issues that you have written about to me in the past have been resolved. You may be interested to know that the bill that recently passed did not include a public option or government-run healthcare plan that would compete with private plans. I hope that you will read through the details of how I came to my decision.

Throughout this process, my guiding mission has been to restore the doctor-patient relationship to the center point of our health care system --- not your insurance company and not the government. I have remained committed to four very important principles:

1. The bill must reform the way insurance companies do business, including eliminating exceptions to coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

2. We must strengthen and protect Medicare and defend seniors' healthcare.

3. We must protect small businesses, the backbone of the American economy and allow them to collectively purchase health care for their employees, thereby reducing the costs.

4. Healthcare reform must not add to the deficit.

I am pleased that health insurance reform legislation that passed the House of Representatives adheres to these four principles and ensures that if you like your current health insurance plan, you will get to keep it. After thorough consideration of all of these issues and more, as well as negotiation with the authors of this bill, I voted for this legislation.

Reform Insurance Companies' Abuses

I believe that any health insurance reform proposal must end abusive insurance company practices, like denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and canceling policies when people get sick. Health insurance reform legislation would outlaw these practices. Other important consumer protections include banning lifetime caps on coverage and prohibiting insurers from cancelling patients' policies when they file a claim.

Strengthen and Protect Medicare

I have always been a strong advocate for protecting Medicare. Especially now, with rising healthcare costs, out of pocket expenses for seniors have risen dramatically. This bill would save seniors money by instituting a few necessary changes.

o Close the Medicare Part D Donut Hole

The rising costs of prescription drugs is hurting our nation's seniors, who face unthinkable decisions in this economy about whether to forgo needed medications or pay other bills. As you know, the "donut hole" traps seniors whose prescription drug costs rise above a certain level. Health insurance reform will begin closing the donut hole immediately. In addition, seniors who fall into the donut hole will also receive a $250 rebate this year and will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs until the donut hole is eliminated. That means that over one million seniors will start seeing real savings with their prescription drugs.

You may be pleased to know that I led the fight to close the donut hole, and I'm proud that this critical provision made it into the final bill.

o No-Cost Preventative Care

This bill eliminates co-payments for a wide range of preventive services, like mammograms and prostate exams, and ensures access and adequate time with primary care doctors, which is especially important for seniors' long-term health.

o Extend the Medicare Trust Fund by nine years

This legislation extends the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by nine years, to help ensure Medicare will be there for seniors who need it. Extended solvency helps prevent cuts to services and care.

Additionally, I introduced an amendment that would strengthen and protect the Medicare Advantage program. Many seniors like the choice of having a private insurance companyadminister their Medicare benefits. I believe in protecting this choice for seniors, and I am pleased to report that my efforts are included in the final health insurance reform bill.

Protect Small Business

The rising cost of healthcare has prevented many small businesses from providing health insurance for their employees. Since 2000, healthcare costs for small business have risen 129 percent. This increase is unsustainable and has created a situation where less than half of all small businesses provide health insurance to their employees.

This bill makes healthcare more affordable for small business owners and employees by allowing them to pool their purchasing power with other small businesses into one risk pool to drive down costs. Under this bill, insurance premiums for small businesses would be similar to the premiums larger firms can provide their employees simply because of the sheer size of their bargaining power. This risk pooling is simple economics?"the more people you have, the more you can spread the risk and the greater the deal you can negotiate on their behalf.

Additionally, the bill immediately provides tax credits of up to 35 percent for small businesses that voluntarily choose to provide health coverage to their employees, and tax credits of up to 50 percent starting in 2014. These tax credits will provide real relief to small businesses who provide insurance for their employees.

I understand there is some concern that a burden would be placed on small businesses that do not purchase insurance by forcing these businesses to pay a fine. However, I want to make clear that businesses with 50 employees or less will not be required to provide health insurance. This is a dramatic improvement over what was originally proposed and will ensure that small businesses will pay no additional taxes or fees related to health insurance or have any obligation to provide health insurance to their employees.

Health Insurance Reform Must Not Add to the Deficit

As a budget hawk, one of my biggest concerns in the discussion of health insurance reform is the cost of the bill adding to the federal deficit. Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike can agree that the federal government should be held to the same standard as American families by not spending more than it earns. Therefore, I was pleased that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO)?"the independent budget umpires for Congress?"reported that health insurance reform legislation would not add one single dollar to the federal deficit, but would in fact reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion over 10 years, and would continue to reduce the deficit by as must as $1.2 trillion over the following 10 years. As you know, the deficit threatens our economic security, reducing productivity growth and capital available for investment. A ballooning deficit also puts our national security in danger because it makes us more dependent on countries that may not have our national interests at heart. This health insurance reform bill takes a serious step in helping to put our nation back on a sustainable fiscal path.

Lastly, I would like to bring your attention to several common sense provisions in this bill that have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past:

o Providing middle-class Americans with tax credits to buy private insurance

o Allowing parents to keep their children under their insurance plan up to the age of 26

o Forcing insurance companies to adhere to uniform billing standards and forms to cut down on the cost of administering health care in doctors' offices

o Requiring insurance companies to outline coverage options using a simple and standard format that enables consumers to make an apples-to-apples comparison when they are choosing their health insurance plan.

o Permitting states to allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines.

o Requiring Members of Congress and their staff to purchase health insurance through the new state-based Exchanges instead of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan. That means that Members of Congress will have the same health insurance options as small businesses.

Again, thank you for taking time to write on this important matter, and I appreciate that you took the time to understand my position. Please contact me again in the future if I can be of assistance to you on this or any other matter of concern. I hope you'll find my website ( a useful resource for keeping up with events in Washington and the 22nd District of Florida.


Ron Klein
Member of Congress


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