The Healthcare Debate: FAQs and Reading Guide

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What is wrong with our current healthcare system?

Healthcare in America is a massive one-fifth of our economy, meaning one in five dollars Americans spend is spent on health care. While our nation’s health care system is credited with great successes, its history is also littered with spectacular failures: 46 million Americans do not have health insurance, the average American spends almost $8,000 per year on health care, and medical problems contribute to over half of all bankruptcies. 

 

Despite the fact that Americans spend almost twice as much per person on health care as any other country, international indices confirm what many know to be true: Americans get poor value for what we spend. In fact, according to the World Health Organization the United States ranks 37th in terms of health system performance and we trail many other countries in infant mortality, life expectancy and preventable deaths.  

 

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What healthcare proposals are currently being considered in Congress and how will they impact me?
There are hundreds of bills in Congress to address various aspects of our nation's health care system.  Most recently, however, attention has centered on H.R. 3200, a bill supported by the Administration and proposed by the majority party in the House of Representatives aimed at overhauling health care in America. This 1000+ page bill, in its current form, proposes a government-takeover of our healthcare system, creates government agencies and bureaucratic committees that would have unprecedented authority to determine what will be “acceptable” healthcare coverage and sets rules for what healthcare coverage must include, in addition to what treatments patients could receive and at what cost.

H.R. 3200, in its current form, would require all Americans to have a health insurance plan that includes “essential benefits” that are determined by a bureaucratic committee in Washington rather than doctors who know what is best. The bill would ultimately lead to “rationed” healthcare with the same committee of bureaucrats deciding what treatments and services individuals would receive.

 

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How much will the current healthcare proposal cost?
The current proposal would cost about $1.3 trillion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The plan would be paid for through new income taxes, cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and tax penalties paid by individuals and employers who don’t obtain healthcare coverage. According to the CBO, the current healthcare proposal will add more than $230 billion over the next ten years to our already-massive federal budget deficit. The additional healthcare spending would come on top of the $2.29 trillion Congress has already authorized in spending this year alone.

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How will the current healthcare proposal impact small businesses?

H.R. 3200 creates an 8% payroll tax on employers who fail to offer “acceptable coverage,” as defined by a government committee.  According to U.S. Census data, this payroll tax would negatively impact 64% of Virginia’s small business employees. This bill also requires that employers pay a minimum of 72.5% of insurance premiums for an individual and 65% for families. According to a 2008 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 61% of small firms fail the test for family coverage and 21% fail the test for individual coverage. The proposal also does nothing to allow more small businesses to join together and negotiate with insurance companies on a level playing field, like large businesses already do.

 

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How will the current healthcare proposal impact senior citizens’ access to healthcare?
The 2009 Medicare Trustees Report noted that our current Medicare system begins to be insolvent in less than a decade if reforms aren’t made. Despite that fact, the current H.R. 3200 does nothing to address Medicare reform. Instead, it proposes cutting nearly $500 billion in Medicare spending and seeks to expand government coverage to millions of Americans. In Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District alone, these cuts would impact 15,000 seniors who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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Aren't Members of Congress on a government-run healthcare plan?
No. Members of Congress are eligible to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), which is run by private companies through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Members of Congress must pay premiums, co-pays, and deductible requirements for their health insurance plans. The FEHBP does not include a "government run" plan, nor does the current healthcare proposal provide health benefits to citizens similar to the FEHBP.  Members of Congress should be held accountable for their vote on government-run healthcare. Congressman Forbes has cosponsored a bill, H.Res.615, which urges Members who vote in favor of H.R. 3200 to forgo their right to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and agree to enroll under that public option.

What is Congressman Forbes’ position on the current healthcare proposal?

Congressman Forbes does not support H.R. 3200 in its current form or any proposal that would lead to a government takeover of healthcare.  He believes the challenges we face today can be addressed without jeopardizing the coverage of those who like the insurance they have. Congressman Forbes has supported legislation that protects existing coverage and that would find immediate ways to make healthcare more accessible and affordable without shrinking personal choice or increasing taxpayer costs. He supports a solution rooted in innovation, rather than bureaucracy; in choice, rather than restrictions; and in patients, rather than politics.

 

Read Congressman Forbes’ 3-part column series on healthcare:

Part 1: The Impact of Government Run Healthcare
Part 2: Finding Common Ground
Part 3: Learning from Jonas Salk 

 

What are Congressman Forbes’ main concerns with H.R. 3200?

Rather than creating healthcare reform that preserves the patient-doctor relationship and honors individual choice, H.R. 3200, in its current form, creates a government-takeover of healthcare. Here are five reasons Congressman Forbes opposes a government-takeover of healthcare:

 

-          It would result in the loss of private insurance options.

-          Medical decisions would be rationed by a committee of bureaucrats and politicians.

-          It would harm medical innovation.

-          It does nothing to slow runaway healthcare costs or protect Medicare.

-          It would shift healthcare costs to Americans with private coverage.

 

 

What healthcare solutions does Congressman Forbes support?

 

Increasing Accessibility in Healthcare for Uninsured and Those with Pre-existing Conditions

Congressman Forbes has cosponsored the Improving Health Care for All Americans Act, H.R. 3218. This bill would give individuals the option of a refundable tax credit to purchase health insurance, creating accessibility for those who are dissatisfied with their current coverage.  While allowing individuals to keep their current coverage if they like it, the tax credit would also be provided to those who do not currently have access to coverage. Additionally, it provides assistance to those with pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses in obtaining healthcare coverage. This bill also allows individuals to participate in Individual Members Associations, so churches, alumni associations, and other civic groups can set up new insurance pools and access affordable healthcare packages. Ultimately, the bill would create choice, affordability, portability and access while placing control over insurance plans in the hands of individuals and families.

 

Congressman Forbes has also voted to substantially increase funding for and expand the availability of Community Health Centers, the safety net of providers for Americans who don't have access to primary health care in rural and urban areas.

 

Investing in Disease Research and Prevention

Investing in programs in medical and disease research will dramatically improve the quality of life for Americans and save billions in healthcare costs. Congressman Forbes introduced the Accelerate Cures for Patients Act (H.R. 3475), which would double funding for promising medical research to benefit patients in the near-term. This funding would be provided through the National Institute of Health (NIH) budget, which is our nation's premier medical research institute in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases and cancers. Likewise, prevention and healthy living are the first steps in healthcare. Congressman Forbes supports giving employers and insurers greater flexibility to financially reward employees who seek to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, and manage chronic illnesses like diabetes.

 

Creating More Options for Small Businesses

Congressman Forbes has cosponsored the Small Business Health Fairness Act (H.R. 2607). The bill would create Association Health Plans to allow more small businesses to join together and negotiate with insurance companies on a level playing field, just like large businesses already do.

 

Protecting Medicare for Seniors

Unless reforms are made, the current Medicare system is expected to be insolvent in less than a decade, according to the Medicare Trustees Report. Congressman Forbes supports prioritizing Medicare reform and honoring the commitment made to our nation’s seniors instead of cutting funding and adding millions of more Americans on a government-run system. In addition, he supports providing Medicare and Medicaid with additional authority to stop waste, fraud, and abuse in the system that costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Congressman Forbes has cosponsored the SAFE Commission Act, H.R. 1557, to address waste and fraud in entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

 

Reducing Medical Costs and Frivolous Lawsuits

Frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits are one of the driving forces behind skyrocketing healthcare costs, leading to unnecessary tests and causing many physicians to close their practices. Congressman Forbes has cosponsored the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act (H.R. 1086), which would reduce costs and reform our medical malpractice liability system by reducing frivolous lawsuits that drive up healthcare costs.

 

Additionally, Congressman Forbes supports investing in technology to reduce medical errors, one of the other leading causes of high healthcare costs in the United States. He has introduced The Enhancing SIMULATION Act (H.R. 855), which would invest in virtual hands-on training for medical professionals that has been proven to reduce medical errors and could reduce health care costs up to $17 billion a year in the U.S.

 

Learn more about the work Congressman Forbes is doing on health care by visiting the healthcare issue page on his Web site.

 

 

How can I share my input on the healthcare debate with Congressman Forbes?

As Congress has discussed healthcare reform, Congressman Forbes has held healthcare telephone town hall meetings and conference calls with constituents, physicians, hospital administrators and nurses in Virginia's Fourth District.

 

If you were not able to participate in one of those conference calls, Congressman Forbes still wants to hear from you. Here are a few ways you can join in the healthcare discussion:

 

-          Share your thoughts on healthcare reform by taking this survey now.  

-          Join the healthcare discussion currently taking place on Congressman Forbes' blog. 

-          Email Congressman Forbes your thoughts our nation’s direction in healthcare. 

-          Call any one of Congressman Forbes’ offices to share your ideas and concerns on healthcare.