Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reply from Congressman Baron Hill

August 26, 2009

Dear Mr. Demaree,

Thank you for contacting me about the current health care reform debate. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this critical matter.

While discussing health care reform, it is important to remember that there are currently five different health care reform bills pending before Congress (three in the House and two in the Senate), and several more steps for them to go through before a bill reaches the President's desk. Enacting such important legislation rightly entails a lengthy and complex legislative process.

This is not a new debate - the discussion about how to responsibly reform our nation's health care system so that it provides timely, quality and affordable care has been debated for the past 60 years. This problem has become more prevalent over the past decade as health costs have escalated sharply, accounting for more than 60 percent of the nation's bankruptcies. Hoosier families have seen their premiums rise four times faster than wages over the last several years. Health care costs are growing at nearly twice the rate of inflation and this trend is unsustainable for our government and citizens. Doing nothing at this point is not an option. Costs will continue to rise, and more and more Americans will go without coverage and care.

My position on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce - the House committee with primary jurisdiction over the House's health reform package - has put me on the front lines of this issue. It is a weighty responsibility, and one I take very seriously. We must reform our nation's health care system for my constituents who tell me countless stories about how our system has failed them, for middle-class Hoosier families who can no longer afford their health insurance premiums, for those Southern Indiana residents who are denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and for those U.S. citizens who are uninsured.

As introduced, H.R.3200, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act, was not something I could support. It did not adequately address the concerns of Hoosiers, and equally as important, it was moving through the House far too fast.

I helped ensure that this debate was given the attention it merits in the Committee by withholding my vote until we had sufficient time to debate and make significant changes to the bill. Plus, I believe that an issue of this magnitude must be carefully considered and vetted not only by Members of Congress, but by our constituents. Therefore, I am pleased that there will not be a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives on this measure until it is appropriately debated, digested, and further changes are made to the bill.

Some of the changes I was able to help secure are: protecting small businesses by bumping up the requirement for exemption from mandatory coverage to $500,000 annual payroll; making sure rural hospitals are fairly reimbursed under a public option; allowing for the establishment and continuation of state-based co-ops; ensuring that a public option will negotiate rates directly with providers and compete on a level playing field with private insurance plans; strengthening physician opt-out language under the public option; clarifying and reiterating that the public option is entirely voluntary and no American will be forced into it; ensuring that illegal aliens will not receive benefits as a result of this legislation; and committing to produce a final bill that effectively bends the cost curve and has a total cost of less than $1 trillion. As a result of these changes, I felt comfortable allowing the bill to move on to the next step in the process.

The bill moving out of the Energy and Commerce is a single step in a very long process. My next step is returning to Southern Indiana and listening to you about ways in which this legislation can be further improved. In September, I intend to return to Washington and continue to fight for the changes that Hoosiers need in the bill that is ultimately brought before the full House of Representatives.

Thank you again for contacting me about health reform. I appreciate knowing your thoughts on this important bill and I would encourage you to contact me with any additional concerns or comments at 202.225.5315. If you would like to receive periodic email updates on my congressional activities, please visit