Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rep. Chris Murphy's health care reform briefing

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on about the health care reform, it's that the bill that passed in the house two weeks ago is complex and confusing. Yesterday, Congressman Chris Murphy (5th district) hosted a briefing on the bill to help state legislators, advocates, the press and the public understand the bill and what it means for Connecticut and its residents. Here are some key points that came up in the discussion:

-- With the new purchasing plan, made up of federal subsidies and the public option plan, 96% of individuals in CT will be insured.
-- The bill makes it feasible for small businesses to afford health insurance for their employees by joining the health insurance exchange and, moreover, creates incentives for them to do so through tax credits (up to 50% for small businesses) and monetary penalties for failure to offer coverage. The hope is that eventually, all businesses will join the health care exchange.
-- States can opt out of the federal exchange if they wish to create their own health insurance exchange instead.
-- Pre-existing conditions will NO LONGER be a determining factor in whether a person gets health care coverage or not.
-- The life of medicare will be increased by several years through tweaks in funding.
-- State Rep. Betsy Ritter (38th district) raised an important question that is of particular interest to me from a policy standpoint -- how will the state need to respond to the remarkable increase of 30 million new insured people? The issue of greatest concern is the present shortage of primary care physicians, which the bill actually addresses. It will provide funding for scholarships and loan repayment plans for med and nursing students in exchange for promising a certain number of years practicing primary care. This also points to additional infrastructural issues such as the need for more health clinics to accommodate the increased numbers of insured people and the strategic placement of these clinics in communities that otherwise would not have realistic access to care.
- A point was raised by State Rep. Andy Fleischmann who shared an anecdote about a time when he knew his insurance company was supposed to cover a given medication but each time he called the company, they said it was not covered. It took persistent calling and, eventually, talking to *somebody important* for them to concede that yes, the medication to which he was referring is covered by the plan he is paying for. Most people, he said, would simply accept that the medication is not covered after the first phone call. He then made the compelling point that we have greater consumer protection when it comes to our cars than our health. How can we hold insurance companies accountable for the contract that we, the insured, and they, the insurer enter into which guarantees financial coverage of specific medical procedures, drugs, doctor's visits, etc., in exchange for a monthly premium?
-- Touching on reproductive rights, one man stood up and shared the following story: As he was leaving church one Sunday, he came across a note on his car, placed there, he thinks, because of the Obama sticker. The note said something along the lines of, "do not support Barack Obama's health care bill because he wants to murder innocent babies." He then asked Congressman Murphy, "how can we stop anti-choice fanatics from really taking over this bill?" The Congressman responded, "Unfortunately, we do not have a pro-choice congress, and we can only hope for the best in the senate." This raises an important point, though, and that is the anti-choice movement is taking advantage of health care to push their political agenda. Abortion, after all, is a LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE, and women have a right to have it if they wish.

In all, it was helpful to listen to Congressman Murphy pick apart the important and confusing parts of the bill -- he was impressively informed and we are so appreciative of all his work!

1 comment:

leslie blatteau said...

hannah- thank you for this summary of the murphy meeting. you share some important points that are being left out of the regular news. this is as local and relevant as it gets.