Sen. Nelson: Disappointed in Your Support for the “Baucus Bill”

I wrote you a couple of days ago, trying to state in a positive way my hope that you would provide some constructive leadership in search of meaningful health care reform. But … what are you thinking? You’re calling the proposal from Sen. Baucus “a good start,” when it is shaping up to be the bill no one from either party can support?

Why would you back a plan that appears to be nothing but a gift to the insurance industry? One that does so little to contain costs and so much to increase the burden on middle class families?

Some of my liberal friends assume you’re a shill for the insurance industry, in which case I may be wasting my time writing to you. I’d like to believe you have honest concerns about driving down the costs of the plan that ultimately emerges from this process and prevent it from inflating our nation’s deficit. If so, fine, fight to make sure that what ultimately passes is a fiscally responsible plan.

But please don’t stand as a roadblock to legislation that would use a public insurance option as a way of driving down costs. No one has presented a co-op program or other compromise that would have the same impact. And no government plan is going to be so generous that it will put all the insurance companies out of business. They will do just fine if they show they know how to deliver actual value to their customers.

Instead of starting with the Baucus plan, take one of the public option bills and be a hero by making it more responsible. If there is pork buried in those thousands of pages of legislation, expose it. If you have other ideas about how to make the numbers work, make your amendments.

But don’t come out the other end of this debate as one of the people who supported a reform that was worse than no reform at all.

Update: Reply I received on Sept. 18, presumably a form response to everyone who has complained

Dear Mr. Carr:

Thank you for contacting me about health care reform. In his recent speech to Congress, President Obama also provided us with a clearer view of his desires for health care reform.

What the President described is pretty close to the draft of a bill I’m helping prepare as a member of the Senate Finance Committee. This legislation will let folks who are happy with their insurance keep what they’ve got, including veterans and seniors on Medicare. It will also create State-based exchanges – a nationwide marketplace – where those without coverage, or those who are unhappy with what they have, can get it at an affordable price.

The bill will hold insurers’ feet to the fire, requiring them to cover everyone and preventing them from dropping someone who gets sick. Additionally, it contains several measures aimed at reducing overall medical and prescription drug costs and eliminating waste and fraud in the system.

I plan on improving the bill through amendments that will, among other things, help pay for reform of our health care system. One of my amendments would require drugmakers to provide rebates to Medicare, just like they do for Medicaid. This would save Medicare a ton of money and help reduce out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for many seniors. Further, by eliminating the tax break drugmakers get for TV and other advertising, we would see another $37 billion to pay for health care.

Regardless of where anyone stands on the specifics, I think we all can agree that the system we have can be unfair and too costly, and needs to be fixed. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue. Please don’t hesitate to contact me in the future.

Senator Bill Nelson

Author: David F. Carr

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