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If you’re like thousands of New Mexicans, you were likely shocked by the news that several state insurance companies planned to raise rates by 15, 20 or even 25 percent for the next year. It’s part of a nationwide trend that we’ve seen over the past few months that shows no sign of slowing down. These drastic rate increases highlighted a problem that hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans face. Even if you have health insurance, it is often neither affordable nor secure and the rising costs are putting a squeeze on everyone.
Right now, too many families are being hurt by out-of-control health insurance costs, too many individuals are being denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions and too many small businesses are struggling with a costly and inefficient system. Over the past decade, health insurance premiums have doubled, while wages have gone up by just 3 percent. And if the trend continues, premiums will double in the next decade — costing families $25,600 a year. This is not a sustainable system.
Health insurance reform will rein in these costs and it will do so while reducing the deficit by $1.3 trillion, a deficit reduction figure not seen in 17 years. Health insurance reform could drive down premiums by 14 to 20 percent for people buying comparable individual coverage and it provides the largest middle class tax cut for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance in history. In our district alone, 14,100 small businesses could be helped by a small business tax credit to make premiums more affordable.
While it reduces the deficit and helps small businesses, it will also cover 31 million Americans — 95 percent of those who are currently uninsured. For New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, this means that 115,000 residents who do not currently have insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange.
Not only is it morally right to extend coverage — it is fiscally responsible. Every year the average American family pays a hidden tax of more than $1,000 just to cover the cost of the uninsured who are forced into emergency rooms to receive uncompensated care. When we lower the number of uninsured, we drive down those unnecessary costs, saving money for everyone.
When this proposal was developed, many Republican ideas were considered and many were included in the final piece of legislation. This legislation begins to address medical malpractice rewards and it does it on the state level by allowing individual states to act as incubators for ideas to reduce medical malpractice costs.
Health insurance reform also cracks down on Medicare waste, fraud and abuse — a proposal that Republicans have supported for many years. Also important, this legislation helps seniors. It strengthens Medicare, protecting and preserving Medicare for future generations, making prescription drugs more affordable and expanding preventative care services.
This reform bill isn’t perfect — but it stops insurance companies from denying people for pre-existing conditions. It provides more choice. It lowers costs and reduces our deficit. It stops insurance companies from dropping people when they are sick and need care the most. It helps small businesses by giving them tax credits. It helps seniors by making prescription drugs more affordable. And health insurance reform means that uninsured individuals and small businesses will have the same kind of choices of private health insurance as members of Congress.
I’ve listened to constituents, we’ve incorporated important ideas and we’ve been debating how to fix our broken health insurance system for over a year — and I believe that this is the time for reform for the sake of American families, our economy and our country.