I received a reply to the
mail I sent last month
to my state's US senator, Jeanne Shaheen.
It's clearly a canned reply, as it doesn't respond to the actual
point I made. And it's stupid to respond to a form letter.
I'll do so anyway:
December 3, 2009
Ah, we're on a first-name basis.
Thank you for contacting me about health care reform. This is one of
the most important issues facing our nation and I appreciate hearing
your thoughts and suggestions for how we might address it.
Jeanne, I'd take that a lot more seriously if there were any indication
whatsoever that you had actually paid attention
to anything I said.
In New Hampshire and across the country, rising health care costs are
threatening the stability of our families and the competitiveness of our
small businesses. In the past 10 years, health care costs have increased
131 percent, far outpacing wages, which increased by 38 percent over the
same period. Medical bills are now the leading cause of personal
bankruptcy in the United States, with three-fourths of those
bankruptcies befalling people who have insurance.
Jeanne, that's fine, but I wish you'd think for a bit
about what has brought us to this pretty pass. We're here as a result
of decades of government restrictions, mandates, regulations, taxes,
subsidies, and penalties, all aimed at the health care sector. Your
claim is that this time
, your new set of restrictions,
mandates, regulations, taxes,
subsidies, and penalties will (somehow) bring us to health care nirvana.
Even if I didn't know anything else about your proposed legislation,
I'd say the past history of government behavior in this area
allows us to be very skeptical about that.
Unfortunately, we do know the details of your proposed
legislation, and the evidence is mostly the other way.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an
analysis a few days ago that revealed some
ugly math: estimated premiums for some people
would go up by 10%-13% more than what's projected under current
law. And some
argue that the CBO report is overly optimistic.
The dean of Harvard Medical School recently
noted: "In discussions with dozens of health-care leaders and
economists, I find near unanimity of opinion that, whatever its shape,
the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly
accelerate national health-care spending rather than restrain it.
Likewise, nearly all agree that the legislation would do little or
nothing to improve quality or change health-care's dysfunctional
The actual winners and
will be unknown until well after the legislation is enacted.
I'm afraid there's no evidence for your glib implication of significant
savings for most people. During the campaign, President Obama promised
that "reform" would save "the typical family $2500 a year in lower
health care premiums." He's not mentioning that now.
The "bankruptcy" claim, by the way is a myth;
it's unlikely that "reform" will make any significant dent in bankruptcy
For our small businesses, rising health care costs are hurting their
ability to compete and killing jobs. From 2002 to 2006 in New
Hampshire, there was a more than 40 percent increase in the premiums
businesses paid for an individual plan for their workers. And for our
smallest businesses, those with fewer than 10 employees, the increase
was almost double that - a more than 70 percent increase. We are on an
Jeanne, I'm well aware that you can count on the support of business, large
or small, if you can credibly claim that you can use the tools
of the coercive state to shift costs that they currently bear onto
others. Generally (and regrettably), businesses are not reliable
supporters of free market principles.
That said, many businesses are not convinced that you're here to help
them out. The National Federation of Independent
Business doesn't support the current version of your legislation;
neither does the US Chamber
of Commerce. If you're really concerned about business health,
shouldn't you be listening to them?
It's time to hold health insurance companies accountable. In America,
it should be against the law to deny coverage to people with
pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. It
should be against the law to cap insurance coverage so that patients
lose their coverage right when they need it most. And, nobody should
have to lose their health insurance when they lose their job.
Please note that you just got done bemoaning skyrocketing
health costs. Now you are proposing measures that will inevitably
increase the cost of health insurance further. Do you see a problem
While we look to stabilize costs for those Americans with insurance, we
also need to create some affordable options for the 30 million Americans
with no health care at all. I support a public option that would
encourage competition in the insurance market and provide an affordable
option for the uninsured. I believe the public option is the best
solution but I am willing to consider other proposals that lower costs
and increase access to health care.
I wish you were serious about that, Jeanne. You might start with
recent column that presented three good ideas:
- Tort reform.
- Abolish the prohibition against buying health insurance across
- Tax employer-provided health insurance.
These ideas got nowhere in the legislation under consideration.
Krauthammer suggests you junk those bills and start over. Are
you willing to consider that?
If three proposals are too few, see John Mackey's
for additional ideas.
While there are many things wrong with America's health care system, the
quality of services and choices for consumers are working and must be
protected. We have the best hospitals, the best doctors, the best
nurses and the best medical technology in the world. Americans can
choose their own doctors, choose their own insurance, and make decisions
about their treatment. That's what's right about our health care
system. We must keep what's right and fix what's wrong.
Jeanne, I realize that this sort of empty feelgood rhetoric
is common practice in form letters, but it's still kind of
soul-deadening to read it. Needless to say,
I have little confidence that the proposed legislation will
do anything approaching what you claim.
One thing you don't specifically mention is medical innovation.
Many feel that under your legislation, American dominance
in this area will be doomed.
Are you comfortable with that?
The time to reform our health care system is now. We cannot wait any
longer. Middle class families and small businesses are depending on us.
We need health care reform that stabilizes costs, holds health insurance
companies accountable and protects quality and choice.
Just as an aside, one of the widely noted gimmicks
used to hide the true costs
of the bill you seem determined to vote for is to delay significant
outlays until 2014. So your insistence about hurrying up rings
a bit hollow here.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I will keep them in mind
during the coming weeks as we debate health care reform in the U.S.
Senate. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any future
questions or concerns.
United States Senator
Jeanne, I find your form-letter reply to my specific concern
disappointing, and I don't for a moment
believe that you will keep my thoughts in mind. Sorry.