06.29.09

Capitol News from Senator Richard Burr

Message From Senator Burr

Greetings from Washington! As you have probably heard and read in the news lately, Congress is currently working on health care reform legislation.  I am a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which is one of the committees working on this legislation. While some politicians support a government-run health care program, I have a different approach.

News Update

Reforming Health Care for Americans

Today, nearly 50 million people across America do not have health insurance, and this number is growing.  In North Carolina alone there are more than 1.5 million uninsured individuals.  I believe we must make health insurance more accessible and affordable so that Americans can have peace of mind. 

In order to give individuals and families choices in their coverage and to avoid a one-size-fits-all program, we need to give people the means to purchase their own health insurance that fits their needs and the needs of their families.  To address the growing problem of employees having limited or no access to employer-provided coverage, we should foster a variety of health insurance plans that stay with you through job and life changes so that you can get care when you need it.  We also need to make sure that those Americans who have pre-existing conditions, like a chronic illness, can get affordable coverage.

I have concerns about the approach to health care offered in the bill introduced by Senate Democrats.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this bill would spend more than a trillion dollars and still leave tens of millions of Americans uninsured.  Even more concerning, the CBO estimates fifteen million people who currently have health insurance through their job will lose their coverage under the plan.  

As an alternative to the Democrats' proposal, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and I introduced the Patient's Choice Act.  This bill would provide for access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans, and do so without costing the taxpayers a single dime.  That means no new taxes, and it means not adding billions of dollars to our ever-growing national debt.

The Patients' Choice Act contains revolutionary elements that preserve choice and freedom, but will also bring much needed peace of mind to consumers and tax fairness to our health care system.  Specifically, this bill would create a new tax credit for individuals and families, regardless of employment status, worth about $2,300 for individuals and $5,700 for families. Americans would receive this benefit upfront, so they would not have to wait until they file their tax returns to get it.  This benefit would be made available regardless of how much a person pays in taxes.  What's more, under this plan, if you like the health care you have, you can keep it -- but you'll have more money in your pocket because you will still receive the tax credit.

The Patients' Choice Act would also guarantee that all Americans, regardless of age or health status, can get health insurance coverage by ending the practice of "cherry picking," in which insurance companies choose to cover only healthy patients.

Our bill would adjust risk across insurance companies through an innovative reform called a State Based Health Exchange, which would be a voluntary, one-stop marketplace of insurance plans. These state exchanges, which would be open to all Americans, would offer a broad range of plans, and all plans would be required to have the same standard benefits as those enjoyed by Members of Congress. If you purchase your health insurance through this new state exchange, you cannot be denied because of a pre-existing condition.  This is because insurers who do cherry pick healthy patients would be penalized, and those that cover patients with pre-existing conditions and emphasize prevention and wellness would be rewarded. 

I will continue to work on solutions to help the uninsured.  I believe we can do so in a way that preserves and improves choices, rather than pushing Americans into government-run programs.  I encourage you to visit my website to read more about this proposal.

For additional information on The Patients' Choice Act, please visit: burr.senate.gov.