Column by Tom Perriello
One of the top concerns of working families and small businesses in the Fifth District is the skyrocketing cost of health care and the lack of access to quality, affordable care. Over the past 15 months, I have heard countless stories from Virginians about their struggles with the current health care system. Small business owners tell me they have to choose between insuring their workers or laying people off. Self-employed workers talk about their premiums have jumped 20% in just one year. Individuals with pre-existing conditions like diabetes say they can’t get health coverage. And the uninsured tell me stories—sometimes heart-breaking—about a disease that went unchecked or a trip to the emergency room after it was too late, all because they did not have health insurance.
Enough is enough. I will not stand by while Virginians put up with the abuses of the health insurance companies while they ration care and deny coverage. I believe every Virginian should have access to the same health care choices I receive as a Member of Congress, which is why I cast my vote in favor of historic health care reform legislation. This legislation will lower costs and improve care for 409,000 residents of the Fifth District, keep our hospitals from going bankrupt, and increase access to quality, affordable health care—all while reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion.
There has been so much misinformation about the health care bill, it’s hard to sort fact from fiction. Here are some facts about the health care reform legislation that you need to know:
1. Protects Medicare and closes the Part D “donut” hole for prescription drug coverage. This bill will extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by nine years. Currently, 12,500 Medicare beneficiaries in the Fifth District hit the Part D donut hole every year and are forced to pay the full cost of their prescription drugs. Under the bill, these beneficiaries will receive a $250 rebate in 2010, 50% discounts on brand name drugs beginning in 2011, and complete closure of the donut hole within a decade. A typical beneficiary who enters the donut hole will see savings of over $700 in 2011 and over $3,000 by 2020.
2. Provides tax credits for small businesses to obtain health insurance. Under the legislation, the small businesses with 100 employees or fewer will be able to join the health insurance exchange, benefiting from group rates and a greater choice of insurers. Small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $50,000 will qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 15,200 small businesses in the Fifth District that could qualify for these credits.
3. Provides the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in history. For those who do not receive health care coverage through their employer, they will be able to purchase coverage at group rates through the new health insurance exchange. To make this insurance affordable, the legislation contains the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in history. For a family of four making $50,000, the average tax credit will be approximately $5,800. There are 183,000 households in the Fifth District that could qualify for these tax credits.
As well, this legislation reduces the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next twenty years and ensures that no federal funding can be used for abortion. The heads of major hospitals around the Fifth District—including Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, Martinsville Memorial Hospital, Danville Regional Medical Center, and the University of Virginia Medical Center—have sent me letters in support of this legislation saying, “This legislation is critical to us and the patients we serve.” While this bill is not perfect, it is a major step forward to health care stability and security for Virginians and Americans. I cast my vote in favor of this bill knowing it is in the best interest of my constituents and our country.