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DeLauro: On Health Care, the Status Quo is Unacceptable

June 26, 2009
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn. – 3) met with health care reform supporters from Connecticut during a town hall meeting on the issue sponsored by Health Care for America Now Town Hall. During her remarks DeLauro highlighted the unacceptability of the status quo and stated that Democrats in Congress and the President are fighting to ensure people have health care they can never lose; it includes mechanisms like a public option in the health exchange and focuses on prevention and wellness; and it shifts the power from the health insurance company to the consumer.

Below is the text of her remarks (as prepared for delivery).

This conversation could not be more urgent. There is a real hunger for serious reform.

To be sure, we have made some important steps over the last few months -- Congress has already acted this year to strengthen health coverage for lower income children and for workers who have lost their jobs during the recession.

In these tough times, even people who once felt safe are now worried about losing coverage or being unable to afford the care they need.

The chaos in our economy is causing an estimated 14,000 people in our country to lose coverage everyday. As the unemployment numbers keep rising – so too will the loss of coverage. The fear of job loss is palpable – 40% of people in this country have lost a job.

And even for those with coverage, surging health care costs are eating up more and more of the family budget. In the last 8 years, the average family premium has gone up 87 percent. That is the cost of doing nothing.

Let me tell you what the President and Democrats are going to do for health care.

· Insurance you can never lose. Giving you – the people – the control that insurance companies have taken away over the years. Lowering costs.

· Giving you the choice of a public health insurance option in the health exchange that competes with the private insurance companies that have amassed too much power.

I am proud that the Connecticut legislature passed the Sustinet bill, which includes a public plan and puts Connecticut in the position to quickly implement health reform that we pass at the federal level.

We know we have to make health care more affordable and lower costs for families, businesses, and the nation.

Today, 75 cents of every health care dollar is spent on chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Many of these could be prevented or better managed to avoid expensive complications.

And we must improve quality and reward efficient, high-quality, patient-centered care. We need to promote coordinated care – so that nobody gets lost going from doctor to doctor, getting duplicative tests or experiencing harmful medical errors that drive up costs too.

And we need to bring some basic fairness and common sense back to the system – ending insurance companies’ unfair practices of cherry-picking the healthiest people while leaving those with expensive medical conditions behind. Putting limits on out-of-pocket expenses. Nobody should ever go into debt because they had the misfortune of getting sick.

I am pleased that the House tri-committee bill includes strong consumer protections, including some that I have worked on with my colleagues Allyson Schwartz and Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Transparency requirements so that consumers get the information they need. A Health Insurance Ombudsman that works with consumers to keep insurance companies honest.

In the end though, only comprehensive reform dealing with costs, coverage, and quality of care will truly put us on a sustainable path to the future.

We have been talking about this moment for years. And now we are here:

We are finally seeing progress. Last Friday, Chairmen Waxman, Rangel and Miller released their proposed bill - a historic achievement.

It lowers costs for families and ends denials for pre-existing conditions.

It includes a high-quality public health insurance option that would compete with private companies – providing additional choice for families and breaking the stranglehold that private insurance companies have in so many communities.

It puts doctors and patients back in charge of health care decisions, and it makes critical investments in prevention and in our health care workforce. But we still have a long way to go.

Some will argue that now is not the time for change – that we cannot afford health reform today, -- that we have too much to tackle with the economy in a free-fall.

In reality, I believe the longer we wait, the worse things get. We need to reform our broken health care system – not in spite of our struggling economy – but because of it.

And I might add that those same people have had eight years, and they ignored the rising costs and eroding coverage that have burdened so many families and business.

Even now, the only idea they have is "no." Well, it is time for a change - and that is where you come in.

I cannot tell you how important your advocacy and action is. Not only in fighting for health reform – but also as a catalyst – to make things happen here in Washington.

Thank you again for having me today. I look forward to answering your questions.