Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lieberman's Official Response to Health Care Bill Messages

Here is the official response from Senator Joe Lieberman about his support for the Senate Health Care Bill. I got this after writing to his office:

Thank you for contacting me to express your opinion regarding health care reform efforts. I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with me, and I want you to know that I hear and understand your concerns.

Americans today are faced with great uncertainty about their health care coverage and insurance. These concerns focus on rising medical costs, access to coverage, and quality of care. With more than 45 million uninsured Americans and health care spending levels that exceed any in the world, our current health care system is unsustainable. Too often, we reward quantity over quality. The need for health care reform is clear. We must begin to provide Americans with the high-quality, affordable health care they need.

As you may know, over the last several weeks, I and several of my colleagues have worked together with Senate leaders to reach an agreement on a health care reform plan that addresses three critical goals: curbing the enormous increases in health care costs that burden almost every American family and detract from economic growth; regulating insurance companies to better protect patients and consumers; and making it easier for millions of Americans who can't afford health insurance to buy it.

In my view, the resulting legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), would make significant progress toward reaching all three of these goals, and does so in a fiscally responsible way. It is estimated that, under this bill, 31 million previously uninsured Americans will be able to purchase health insurance, resulting in 94 percent of Americans being covered. This represents a historic achievement that will move us closer to fulfilling the goal of universal coverage. In addition, this measure contains a number of strong provisions designed to ensure that insurance companies treat their customers fairly. Specifically, insurers would be prohibited from denying Americans coverage because of a pre-existing condition and from rescinding an individual's coverage if they become sick.

H.R. 3950 also takes a number of substantial steps to reduce health care costs in the long-term. I am particularly pleased that this final package includes elements of several amendments I cosponsored to contain costs, provide patients with more information so that they can make better decisions about their care, and create incentives for physicians to deliver high-quality, efficient care.

According to the Congressional Budget office (CBO), this legislation would reduce the federal deficit by $132 billion over the next ten years, and will continue to reduce costs in the following decade. This bill will also extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund for an additional nine years. Because of my serious concerns about our nation's long-term fiscal imbalances at this time, I opposed the inclusion of a non-essential government-run insurance program, including expanding Medicare to those 55 years of age and older. I felt any such new program was duplicative of other provisions in the underlying bill and could easily saddle the federal government with billions of dollars in additional debt and exacerbate Medicare's already perilous financial condition. Consequently, I supported Senate leaders' decision to remove such a plan from the final agreement.

On December 21, 2009, the Senate, with my support, approved a procedural motion that will allow the Senate to begin consideration of a comprehensive amendment that contains key provisions of the final compromise package by a vote of 60-40. The Senate is expected to pass H.R. 3590 on December 24, after which it will have to reach a compromise agreement with the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed separate health care reform legislation (the Affordable Health Care for American Act; H.R. 3962) earlier this year. To keep track of further developments on this legislation, you can click on the "Track a Bill" button at http://lieberman.senate.gov/.

I am hopeful that leaders from both chambers will come together in the spirit of compromise to achieve meaningful health care reform that expands coverage, reduces costs, and improves the quality of care for everyone. Looking forward, I will not be able to support any compromise agreement that either includes a public option or does not contain provisions designed to lower health care costs and reduce the national debt over the long term. Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind as this debate continues to move forward.

Thank you again for sharing your views and concerns with me. I hope you will continue to visit my website at http://lieberman.senate.gov for updated news about my work on behalf of Connecticut and the nation. Please contact me if you have any additional questions or comments about our work in Congress.


Joseph I. Lieberman


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