Monday, March 22, 2010

Congressman Collin Peterson offers statement on his "no" vote to the health care reform bill

After thorough and careful reading and review of the health care legislation the House considered this evening I was not convinced that it was right for the people of Minnesota’s 7th District and so I voted against it. Some people will appreciate that and some will be disappointed, but I made this decision because I thought it was the right thing to do for the people I serve, and that’s everyone who lives in the 7th District.

Most people recognize that our health care system needs reform and since this reform effort began I have talked with a great many 7th District Minnesotans about what was needed. The clear consensus was that we needed to reduce the cost of health care -- for individuals, families, employers and the government – to expand coverage, and to fix the problems we have without destroying the parts of the system that are working.

If the bills we voted on tonight had measured up to these standards I would have supported them, but they did not. In my judgment, while these bills deliver some good things they miss the mark on the most important things and will not deliver as promised.

This legislation doesn’t control costs, doesn’t reform Medicare, and only covers 37% of the uninsured in the 7th District as opposed to an average of 68% nationwide. Some districts will see coverage expanded to cover as much as 92% of the uninsured and Minnesotans will paying for that while leaving 63% of our 7th District residents without coverage. This is very similar to the way the Medicare geographic disparities problem was created back in 1982. The geographic payment disparity encourages cost-shifting and rewards low quality / high cost health care providers in other states while forcing Minnesota to do more with less. Instead of fixing that problem – which we need to do -- this legislation will lock us into that same disparity situation with regard to the uninsured. Minnesotans will be asked to do more with less while also covering costs in other states that aren’t doing the right thing for their own citizens. And on top of that this legislation will not control costs – in fact it seems to me that it will do just the opposite; health insurance premiums will rise. CBO has said that premiums for individuals will increase 10-13%.

That said, there are some good things in this legislation. It will end pre-existing condition exclusions for children within six months of enactment and do the same thing for adults when the “exchange” marketplaces are operative in 2014 – if they work as proponents claim they will, which is doubtful. It will allow children to stay on their parents’ health care plans until age 26, and it will end the practice of rescinding coverage when you get sick.

However, this legislation avoided making the critical reforms we really need in order to strengthen our rural health care system and by doing so it punts these problems into the future where it’s likely that they’ll be even more difficult and more expensive to solve.

As the Administration begins putting these reforms in place I will continue working to fix the problems I’ve mentioned and to ensure that everyone in the 7th District has access to affordable health care. I will work to hold the Administration accountable and I will keep working to make the changes we need in order for these new policies and health care delivery systems to be workable in rural areas.

Throughout my service in Congress I’ve made it a point to study each issue and each piece of legislation and cast my votes according to what makes the most sense for the people of the 7th District. That is what I’ve done again this evening.

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