John Salazar: Health care reform good for state | SteamboatToday.com

John Salazar: Health care reform good for state

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa

In the past year, I've communicated with thousands of constituents throughout Colorado's Third Congressional District, many from the Steamboat Springs area. Most of them have asked for more affordable health care for their families and their friends. With these marching orders, I've been in the trenches in the nation's capital fighting for health care reform that actually will create a real, noticeable benefit in all of our lives.

Recently, the House passed HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. The bill holds great promise for the nation as a whole, and it offers particular benefits for rural areas like Colorado's Third Congressional District and northwest Colorado.

As drafted, this bill would immediately end discrimination for pre-existing medical conditions, prevent Americans from being dropped from coverage if they become sick, eliminate co-pays for preventive care, place yearly caps on what someone pays, and eliminate waste, fraud and overpayments to private insurance companies.

In Colorado's Third Congression­al District, it is estimated that the Affordable Health Care for America Act will improve employer-based coverage for 362,000 residents, provide credits to help pay for coverage for as many as 184,000 households, improve Medicare for 106,000 beneficiaries, allow 25,200 small businesses to obtain affordable health care coverage, provide tax credits to help reduce health insurance costs for as many as 24,400 small businesses, provide coverage for 111,000 uninsured residents, protect as many as 900 families from bankruptcy because of unaffordable health care costs and reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers by $152 million.

One of the biggest misconceptions about this bill is that it's going to add to our national debt over the next 10 years. I'm a fiscal conservative, a proud Blue Dog Democrat, and I've vowed to reject a bill that would increase our national debt. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that during 10 years this bill will reduce our national deficit by $109 billion.

Another misconception about the bill is that it would cut basic services that Medicare provides. Opponents of this bill have been running misleading television commercials that give that impression. The Affordable Health Care for America Act would cut wasteful administrative costs from running Medicare, which is a good thing and is long overdue. Actually, this bill would improve the basic services Medicare provides. It would provide free preventive care and wellness check-ups for seniors. It would eliminate the prescription drug "doughnut hole" coverage gap that exists today. It would reduce medical errors for seniors with conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes and it would extend Medicare's financial solvency.

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One of my proudest accomplishments is getting a provision in HR 3962 that would allow rural doctors to negotiate the rate they are reimbursed by the federal government for treating patients through a public option. This is a huge win, and I'm proud to have helped make it happen. Another part of this bill that I fought for was the ability to allow the Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department to negotiate prescription drug prices with manufactures — a move that would save us billions of dollars.

It has become clear to the majority of Americans that the current health care system is in need of significant reform. We all know someone who has had health problems big or small sometime in their life. But for too long, the health insurance companies have wrongly denied coverage to those who have suffered; to those who need it the most.

This bill will end that disgraceful practice and will bring the promise of affordable health care to those who have suffered without it for too long. I look forward to the legislation that will come out of the Senate. Together, we will provide health care affordability for all Americans.

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