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As I return home from Congress for an extended work period in the district, I will be devoting most of my time to discussing health care reform with constituents and doctors. For weeks, I made clear to Congressional leaders that we should not rush a vote on health care. I have already met with over 150 doctors and medical professional in our district about health care, and each meeting produces better ideas for improving health care and reducing costs. So my stated position was that Congress should take the month of August to present ideas to the American people and give them time to understand, critique and improve those plans so that we could get this done right, rather than just done right away.
For those who are disappointed by the delay, I understand the urgency we face on health care reform. Skyrocketing costs are crushing middle-class families, seniors, and small businesses. If someone has a child with a pre-existing condition that no insurance company will cover or if you are self-employed and cannot find an affordable plan, no time is too soon to fix the breaks in the system. But I think we must make sure that we are fixing what is broken rather than pouring money down a leaking drain.
The good news is that the latest drafts of the bill include some significant improvements for areas like Central and Southern Virginia. They include an increase in rates of reimbursements to rural hospitals and primary care doctors for treating Medicare and Medicaid patients. Many of our hospitals are barely hanging on right now because of the losses they take to cover the uninsured and because of declining reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid. As I hear from constituents all the time, we also have a growing shortage of primary care doctors, and the latest plan doubles the National Health Service Corps. For decades, this very successful program has helped to pay off medical school loans for those doctors who agree to locate in underserved areas like the small towns and rural communities of Southern Virginia.
Also, the new drafts include improvements for Seniors. The prescription drug “donut hole” will be closed under the current draft. Additionally, savings and anti-fraud efforts in the system will extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund, ensuring that we can afford to keep the promises we have made to our seniors. There are also expansions of choices for aging at home, palliative care, and regular consultations with doctors. The latest drafts also empower Medicare and other programs to negotiate cheaper rates with drug companies. These improvements, such as support for aging at home, are ideas that came from our senior citizens and amount to updating Medicare in ways that improve quality of care and save costs.
Decent people can disagree about health care reform, but some are making up facts that they are trying to sell to the American people. One example is a suggestion that this bill will somehow support euthanasia. Euthanasia is absolutely illegal in the United States, and nothing in this bill will change that one iota.
I continue to keep an open mind on health care reform without committing to a particular plan. Now that we are taking our time to do this right, I continue to believe that the only plan guaranteed to bankrupt our families, our local hospitals, and the federal government over the long term is the decision to do nothing. As I have all summer, I hope to use August to continue gathering ideas and feedback from the people of the Fifth District.
The full text of the draft bill, along with fact sheets and analyses, is posted on my online healthcare forum: www.perriello.house.gov/healthcareforum where your comments are welcome.
Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.