Monday, December 7, 2009

Sen. Jeff Merkley Announces Health Care Bill of Rights

With the Republicans and insurance companies spending so much money lobbying against health care reform and the tea party folks helping to spread their misinformation, I think a lot of people have lost track of what's really at stake here. That's why I was very pleased to see that Sen. Jeff Merkley unveiled a “Health Care Bill of Rights” that highlights reforms in the health care legislation that put patients first, protect Americans from being denied coverage, and end discrimination in our health care system.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act guarantees Americans will have the right to:
  • buy insurance if you have a pre-existing condition
  • keep your insurance if you become sick or injured
  • health insurance without lifetime limits on coverage
  • have affordable insurance if you lose or change your job
  • stay on your parents’ insurance until your 26th birthday
  • preventive care without extra costs
  • fair insurance premiums without discrimination based on gender, health history, family history, or occupation
Here's Merkley announcing the Health Care Bill of Rights (a full transcript is in the comment section).

1 comment:

  1. Here's a transcript of Senator Merkley’s comments:

    This health care bill of rights is all about shifting power from the insurance companies to the citizen. Right now, insurance companies can deny you insurance. They can dump you when you become sick or injured and they certainly can discriminate against you along the way. This bill of rights changes that. This creates fair market for citizens.

    Now as Senator Stabenow pointed out, all these rights will be part of the pool: the health care exchange that will be set up in 2014. But I want to highlight that many of these will come into play right away as well. Working here from the top, the insurance on pre-existing conditions, right away there will be a special high risk pool so that citizens with preexisting conditions, inability to get insurance now, will have the opportunity to get that insurance, they won’t have to wait until 2014. Second, keeping your insurance if you become sick or injured, this is the anti-dumping provision. How outrageous is it that citizens who have paid premiums for 10 or 15 years suffer an injury or an illness and then a few months later when their insurance comes up for renewal it’s denied and they are dumped. Well this will apply to all new policies starting in 2010. No lifetime limits on coverage, it will apply to all new policies starting in 2010. Young adults being able to remain on their parents insurance until their 26th birthday, apply to all new policies starting in 2010. Preventive care, without co-pays, without fees, without costs, again, applies to all new policies starting in 2010.

    I want to just share one story about how just one of these provisions would affect a citizen in Oregon. This is a story from a student at Lewis and Clark College. Her name is Keri. And, she notes, and I say this in her own words:

    “Several years ago I enrolled as a non-traditional student at Lewis & Clark College. It was the first time in my adult life that I have some form of health insurance.

    “I had suffered for years before to moving to Portland with migraine headaches, and decided I would visit a doctor. And decided that since I had it I would visit a doctor now. She ran a couple tests, put me on migraine meds that did not help, and after a CAT scan with no contrast told me I was fine. Several months later my right eye fell lazy and through a string of doctors' that began with an optometrist and ended with a neurosurgeon, I was diagnosed with a tumor in the cavernous sinus in the brain.

    “The insurance I had helped in making sure I could have surgery, along with a lot of fundraising both at Lewis and Clark, the students at Lewis and Clark and at my home of Orcas Island. Unfortunately, my insurance ran out the 2nd week of radiation because it had a $100,000 lifetime limit. That left me with a significant amount of medical debt, as radiation runs about $11,000 a week.”

    So, here is a situation. A lifetime limit that as soon as she had her surgery and started radiation, she no longer had any coverage. And furthermore, because of no pre-existing conditions, or the ban on folks with pre-existing conditions, there was no hope that she would get an insurance policy at any point, along the line, in the future. So, she was basically disenfranchised for a lifetime. This bill, just that single provision, would change that.

    So all of these factors are going to be incredibly powerful force in shifting the playing field from one completely controlled by insurance companies, who could discriminate, who could deny and could dump at will, to having a fair opportunity, a fair insurance market, for American citizens.