Thursday, June 18, 2009

Column A, column B, column C ...

Health care reform is all over the place in Congress. There are dozens of bills and literally hundreds of amendments being considered. All sorts of committees in both the House and the Senate have some sort of jurisdiction over reform, and for good reason. We're not just talking about health care for 300 million Americans, after all. We're talking about possibly trillions (with a 't') of dollars being spent over the next ten years.

Overhauling the nation's health care system could mean just about anything at this point. It could mean the government taking complete control, either by taking over the insurance companies or by simply legislating how and when and to whom they provide coverage. It could mean insurance for every American being paid straight out of the federal budget, which will lead to higher taxes for everyone. It could mean a public plan that may or may not cover every uninsured American, or it could mean health care cooperatives as a compromise between public and private plans.

With every possible option being explored, and with the question of how to pay for it always lurking in the shadows, there is no way that any of us can sit idle while the whole matter is settled by a few hundred politicians. If you don't pay taxes, and don't expect to pay any over the next decade, then you can probably afford to not pay attention or get involved at all. If you and everyone you care about are already covered on health insurance, then you can let everyone in Washington do whatever they're going to do. If not, though, then you can't afford to not get involved.

I've written to my representatives. I assure you, it won't be the last thing I do. The question is, what will you do?

Dear Senator,

I'm grateful for all the work you have done to achieve reasonable health care reform for the country. I also appreciate your willingness to work with all sides and hear all opinions. If I could change one thing about politics in Washington, it would be to end the "them versus us" mentality. No one side has all the answers.

Senator, as far as the measures being debated in various committees, both in the House and the Senate, there are still some provisions that are troubling to me, personally. Among these provisions is one that would require businesses to provide health care to their employees. Health care, though, even for big businesses, is a major expense, as I'm sure you're aware. Mandatory full coverage for every employee would create a serious financial strain for any number of businesses, and at a time when businesses and even states are finding it extremely difficult to cut costs and stay afloat.

There's also the provision which would make it illegal for insurance companies to refuse to cover people based on preexisting conditions. While I've never been happy with that refusal, I'm fundamentally opposed to government telling businesses how to run their businesses. This is exactly how sub-prime mortgages came to be. Lenders wouldn't give loans to people with bad credit, but they did so under duress from government officials. Insurance companies won't cover preexisting illnesses because doing so drives up premiums for everyone, and can threaten the ability of the company to continue providing coverage.

And, of course, the public plan. I cannot say enough in opposition to a government health care option, whether it is in competition or conjunction with private insurance. I've read that the Senate Finance Committee is considering a bill with no government competition at all. This is heartening news for me, and I would hope that such a bill would have your support.

I thank you for your consideration, Senator, and I look forward to hearing your decision.


Stephen Monteith

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