Column: Walz wants to hear from you on health careOverwhelmingly, southern Minnesotans agree that something needs to be done to address rising health care costs — the question is what solution will work and how will it impact Minnesotans?
By: U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, Worthington Daily Globe
WASHINGTON — Every day in America, people skip doctors’ visits or fail to take their medication because of the cost. And they frequently fail to take the preventative measures now that will keep them healthy, and save money, in the future. I hear daily from folks who are struggling with the skyrocketing cost of health care and this kind of financial tug of war with family budgets not only hurts those individuals but adds to the cost of health care as easily treatable illnesses become expensive chronic conditions. These costs also harm our economic competitiveness, keeping employees out of work and costing employers more money. To make our economy sustainable in the long term and to help make health care more affordable for all Americans, it is imperative that we pass sensible health care reform.
Overwhelmingly, southern Minnesotans agree that something needs to be done to address these rising costs — the question is what solution will work and how will it impact Minnesotans?
Congress is now debating a uniquely American solution to our health care crisis. Several different versions of health reform legislation have been introduced in Congress, one in the House and several in the Senate. In the House, the bill is called America’s Affordable Health Choices Act.
I want to hear from you before I make a final decision on this bill.
As I consider my vote, I am guided by the following principles: (1) if you like the coverage you have, you should be able to keep it; (2) we should pay doctors for good outcomes, not the quantity of care they provide; (3) reform should lower costs and streamline the system; and (4) reform should not increase our budget deficit.
The House legislation creates a public health insurance option that would introduce competition and allow the free market to lower insurance costs for families. The bill would also prevent insurance providers from denying coverage to someone based on a pre-existing condition and would close the “donut hole” in prescription drug coverage for seniors.
While I think giving Americans a public insurance option they can never lose is a good start, one of the problems in our current system is that existing government health care programs are too focused on quantity rather than quality of care. This problem is often cited as the Medicare reimbursement rate issue and what it means for southern Minnesota is that states like California and Texas receive more reimbursement money because they offer less efficient care.
An unequal playing field means that despite the fact that the care provided in Minnesota is a better value than care provided elsewhere, our physicians receive less money for their work. This hurts our local economies and is also unfair to our health care providers. As this legislation works its way through the committee process, I will continue working to ensure that this inequity is addressed.
In the last few weeks, you have probably heard some of the partisan bickering in Washington over health care reform. I am not interested in what the pundits and political insiders are saying about this legislation. What I am interested in is what you think about it and whether you believe it will meet your needs.
I am counting on you to let me know your thoughts and to share the story of your experiences with our health care system. In particular, I want to know what you believe is the biggest problem with our system. I also want to know whether you believe we need reform now, whether you think we need a public option and whether health care providers should be paid for outcomes instead of the quantity of services provided. Please call my office at 1-877-TIM-WALZ or visit my Web site at www.walz.house.gov to share your thoughts, questions and stories about this proposal and our current health care system.
It is a privilege to serve you in Congress and now, more than ever, I need to hear from you.
Democrat Tim Walz represents Minnesota’ 1st Congressional District.