Tom Perriello | Fifth District Report

Tom Perriello | Fifth District Report


Most Americans take deep pride in the quality of our nation’s medical care, but also share deep concerns about the skyrocketing cost and shrinking accessibility of health care. The rising price of health care and insurance is crushing many of our local businesses and our working families, while entitlement programs related to health care threaten to explode the national deficit in the decades ahead.

As Congress begins consideration of health-care reform, I have worked hard to gather advice from over 100 doctors and health-care providers from Southern and Central Virginia. I have met with senior citizens and patient advocacy groups, as well as with a broad spectrum of representatives from the health-care community, including nurses, hospital administrators, dentists, pharmacists, home health-care providers, and hospice caregivers. These meetings will continue in the weeks ahead.

I have not yet backed a particular reform plan, but some principles have emerged from my listening tour that will inform how I evaluate various proposals:

First, under the current system, people who pay for their own health insurance are stuck paying higher premiums to cover the costs of those who have no insurance. In fact, economists estimate that families who already have insurance pay an extra $1,300 every year in premiums to cover the cost of the uninsured. Many of our Southside hospitals are straining to the point of breaking; at certain facilities, over 10 percent of their annual costs go towards covering those without insurance, and they must pass these expenses on to the rest of us. We must cover the tens of millions of uninsured in our country or else they will continue to bankrupt the system and send premiums sky high for those who already have insurance.

Second, reforms must move us from “sickness care” to health care. Right now, hospitals get paid a lot for procedures in the emergency room, and get paid almost nothing for preventing someone from having to get rushed there. Both doctors and patients have told me they would prefer a system that rewards personal responsibility and preventative medicine. Such improvements might eliminate co-pays and premiums for check-ups and screenings, and increase reimbursements to primary care doctors such as pediatricians. Also, the Safeway Corporation has shown great success with a program that provides its workers with discounts on health insurance if they lose weight or reduce cholesterol. Ben Franklin’s famous saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more salient.

Third, we must make sure that Americans living in rural communities and small towns still have access to quality primary and specialist care. From Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, Community Health Centers, and support to primary care physicians in “underserved communities,” we can improve access in Southern Virginia. Also, technological advances can allow rural hospitals and doctors to share data about best practices and receive benefit for incentives for meeting.

We must protect the doctor-patient relationship. Today, many insurance companies threaten that relationship in two ways. First, they often override the doctor’s recommendation for the patient on type of care. Second, 23 percent of all healthcare dollars go to administration and overhead at insurance companies, taking those dollars away from the patient and away from investing in better care.

Finally, healthcare reform must provide long-term cost savings to patients, providers and the entitlement programs related to Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ health. We are being choked by healthcare costs rising over 9 percent each year, and any reform worthy of my support would have to show serious cost savings over time.

As this important debate shapes up, my decisions will be informed by the voices of the Fifth District constituents. I have launched a new online health-care forum, called “Your Health, Your Voice,” where you can express your ideas and engage in dialogue with neighbors and the medical community on this important topic. The forum can be accessed online at
As always, you can also contact me directly to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 888.4.TOM4US (888.486.6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515; or visit to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.



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