Virginia’s GOP members of Congress kill me. Take their double standards on health care.
Rep. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake tells the Daily Press of Newport News that he doesn’t want a government-run health care system. “We’re going to end up destroying a very good health-care system,” Forbes said. Rep. Rob Wittman of Montross in Westmoreland County tells the same paper that he’s hearing an “overwhelming hesitancy” to a government-run system.
Rep. Eric Cantor of Richmond agrees. He recently wrote in a Richmond Times-Dispatch that, “the root of the problem is [the Democrats’] House bill’s imposition of the so-called “government option.”
Other than a few platitudes on his Website, Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke is pretty much silent on health care. Rep. Frank Wolf of Vienna, doesn’t say a whole lot about health care on his website either, but at least he voted for SCHIP and he’s working with Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Fairfax County and Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland to let you pay for your health insurance premiums with pre-tax income, effectively lowering your taxes. Of all the Republicans in Virginia, Wolf is once again, the most reasonable.
Yet these Congressmen — federal employees all — enjoy health insurance from a government-run plan. And when they reach retirement age, you know they’ll accept Medicare, another government-run plan.
So my question is, if you hate the government so much and government-run programs are so terrible, should you really ever participate in them personally? Put differently, if these government-run health care programs are good enough for you, shouldn’t they also be good enough for your bosses — the people who elect you?
Fortunately, earlier today, House Democrats formally announced the introduction of legislation to fix our broken health care system. While the bill may not be perfect, I am concerned that we can not afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Many observers believe that the costs of doing nothing are far greater than maintaining the status quo. One study indicates that doing nothing means that the health care costs for an average family of four will rise $1,800 a year in perpetuity, leaving more and more of decisions about your health care up to insurance companies, not you and your doctor.
The Democratic bill offers families more choices, including the option to keep their own doctor. It also prevents denials or rate increases for preexisting conditions.
In Virginia, we need reform of our health care system. Consider these statistics:
- Roughly 4.8 million people in Virginia get health insurance on the job, where family premiums average $13,302, about the annual earning of a full-time minimum wage job.
- Since 2000 alone, average family premiums have increased by 99 percent in Virginia.
- Household budgets are strained by high costs: 21 percent of middle-income Virginia families spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care.
- High costs block access to care: 11 percent of people in Virginia report not visiting a doctor due to high costs.
- Virginia businesses and families shoulder a hidden health tax of roughly $1,000 per year on premiums as a direct result of subsidizing the costs of the uninsured.
- 14 percent of people in Virginia are uninsured, and 70 percent of them are in families with at least one full-time worker.
- The percent of Virginians with employer coverage is declining: from 68 to 62 percent between 2000 and 2007.
- While small businesses make up 71 percent of Virginia businesses, only 48 percent of them offered health coverage benefits in 2006.
- Choice of health insurance is limited in Virginia. WellPoint Inc. (BCBS) alone constitutes 50 percent of the health insurance market share in Virginia, with the top two insurance providers accounting for 61 percent.
- Choice is even more limited for people with pre-existing conditions. In Virginia, premiums can vary based on demographic factors and health status, and coverage can exclude pre-existing conditions or even be denied completely.
As I have written earlier, if we can’t pass health care reform now, when can we pass it? I think the time is now.