There is no question that health care reform is the top political issue of the day. It’s a subject that’s being debated at town hall meetings, in newspapers, on the Web, and TV and radio, on a daily basis.
One person who has been heavily involved in the discussion as legislation making its way through Congress is Sixth District Representative Bart Gordon.
Gordon is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a committee which has turned into a key battleground in shaping health care reform legislation.
The Cannon Courier recently conducted a question and answer interview with Congressman Gordon about health care reform:
Q: What impact would the health care reform legislation have on the citizens of Cannon County?
A: Health reform will lower the cost of insurance for residents and small businesses in Cannon County and across Tennessee. Insurance premiums in our state have risen 77% since 2000. With tax credits and private insurance market reform, residents will be able to find insurance coverage they can afford. Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage people receive, and will have yearly limits on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses, easing the burden on Tennessee households.
Q: What do you think should be the main objectives of the health care reform bill?
A: Health care reform should focus on controlling run-away health care spending, making affordable health insurance available to individuals and small businesses, and helping people without insurance find private health care coverage they can afford. All of this must be accomplished without increasing the federal deficit.
Q: What are some of the specific areas you see as needing to be reformed about the health care industry?
A: Many Tennesseans can’t get insurance at any price in the private insurance market because they have a pre-existing condition such as cancer. That is why I support requiring health insurers to cover everyone in a community, regardless of health status, banning pre-existing condition limitations, as well as prohibiting health insurers from discriminating against people because of health status, gender, and/or race by charging them higher prices then other enrollees.
Q: What parts of the health care industry do you see as currently working well?
A: The United States has some of the highest quality health care in the world. While it is important that we address health care costs and ensure people can find health care they can afford, we also need to make sure we don’t hurt health care quality. I believe we can reduce costs, increase affordability and not hurt the quality of care. Our current system is riddled with inefficiencies and waste in the form of unnecessary paperwork and duplicative care. The Mayo Clinic, which operates large hospital facilities in Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona, has shown that you can successfully reduce costs and improve quality at the same time, if you get rid of these inefficiencies and better coordinate treatment services.
Q: Should individuals be required to have health care insurance? Should the government subsidize those who can’t afford the cost?
A: People should be required to have health care insurance, with tax credits to help individuals and small businesses purchase insurance. The uninsured are receiving their health care in emergency rooms, driving up the cost of premiums for the insured. In 2008, health care providers in Middle Tennessee provided $92 million worth of uncompensated care. By ensuring everyone has access to affordable health insurance it will ultimately help us control health care costs for everyone. The current House bill would allow individuals to opt out from getting insurance if they can’t find an affordable policy.
Q: Should there be a mandate that all employers be required to provide their workers with health insurance? If so, do you think that the requirement would have a negative effect on employment?
A: I think large employers should be required to provide health insurance to their workers or pay into the system so their employees can get insurance elsewhere. Small businesses, on the other hand, need help finding affordable health care insurance, not new taxes and mandates. Insurance costs for small businesses have risen 129% since 2000. We should help them with tax credits and an opportunity to shop for an affordable plan in a new Health Exchange. If they still can’t afford health insurance or would prefer to spend their money on higher wages, we should help their employees purchase affordable health insurance from one of the plans in the new Health Exchange. The Exchange will include a variety of private health plans, just like the Federal Employee Health Benefits Package.