Here is a letter that I wrote to my Congressman and Senator. Please feel free to use it as a template to send to your representatives:
Dear Congressman/Senator/Mr. President,
I am writing to express my opposition to all health care/insurance reform bills currently in Congress, and my overall opposition to a public option. Not one of the bills currently crafted by the Congress in their respective chambers and committees meet the President's goals and assurances.
First, I'd like to say that I agree with the President that we need health care/insurance reform to bend the cost curve downward. I agree with him that any bill that comes out of Congress must be deficit-neutral. I applaud him when he assures us that if our existing coverage works and we are satisfied with it, then great, we can keep it. I applaud him when he says that Americans do not want a government bureaurcrat involved in our health care choices, but at the same time do not hold favorable views of insurance companies. However, the goals that the President has outlined and the assurances he has made do not match the reality of the bills currently in Congress.
With respect to costs, the President rightly argues that reform must alter the trajectory of federal health spending. However, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Douglas Elmendorf testified before lawmakers that the main proposals under consideration would fail to contain costs and would actually exacerbate the problem. He stated, "We do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount. On the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs" (1). Elmendorf went on to say that the cost curve is actually being raised (2). As for the savings that the President argues would be generated through preventive care, Elmendorf reported in early August that "[a]lthough different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall" (3). He then proceeded to expand, saying, "For example, many observers point to cases in which a simple medical test, if given early enough, can reveal a condition that is treatable at a fraction of the cost of treating that same illness after it has progressed. In such cases, an ounce of prevention improves health and reduces spending — for that individual. But when analyzing the effects of preventive care on total spending for health care, it is important to recognize that doctors do not know beforehand which patients are going to develop costly illnesses. To avert one case of acute illness, it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway. ... Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness" (3). The only conclusion that has been consistently drawn on these bills in Congress is that costs will only increase.
These costly bills will surely add to the deficit. In fact, Elmendorf reported back on July 17 that HR 3200 would add nearly $240 billion to the deficit (4). He also reported that the Senate bill coming out of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions would add a whopping $1 trillion to the deficit (5). In either case, this is unsustainable and unacceptable. We are already staring at a $1.5 to $2 trillion deficit and national debt as far as the eye can see. Adding to this would be reckless and irresponsible. At a time when Americans are tightening their belts, we expect the Congress and the President to tighten their belts as well. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va) said it best in an article titled Deficit Plays Into Health Reform in the Washington Post on August 14: "It's not good enough that it's just paid for; it actually has to start driving long-term costs down" (6). According to the CBO, none of the bills currently under consideration will accomplish that.
The President also assures us that those with existing health care coverage should have no fear of losing their coverage. However, a Washington Post analysis reported on August 17 shows that none of the bills in Congress will succeed in keeping that promise. According to the report, "Legislation written by three House committees and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions would allow eligible employers to move workers into a new marketplace for insurance, where they could choose from various coverage options" (7). The analysis goes on to explain that the legislation could prompt "employers to drop coverage" (7). With respect to the House bill, the CBO estimated that millions of Americans would lose their employment-based coverage (7). The CBO and JCT estimate that by 2016, 3 million Americans covered by an employment-based plan would not be offered coverage under the proposal in the House (7). The CBO also left open the possibility that a larger number of Americans would lose their employment-based coverage (7). Further, an analysis of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill estimated that 10 million workers could lose their employer-provided health benefits and would have to find insurance elsewhere (8). This is very concerning. There seems to be a disconnect between what the President is assuring us and what the bills in Congress will actually do.
The evidence suggests that the root cause of these failures to meet the President's goals and assurances is the public option. So my question to you is this: Why would you even consider voting for a bill that does not meet any of the most important goals and assurances in this health care debate? This makes no sense. The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that the real goal in pursuing the public option is, as Barney Frank himself stated, to lead us to a nationalized single payer health care system. Therefore, I am asking you, for the sake of your constituency and the sake of our health care system, please vote against any bill that includes a public option. It is fiscally irresponsible and it fails to meet the most fundamental goals necessary for real health care reform.
Further, I do not think any reasonable person would believe that the government would allow the public option to compete fairly in the free market. This is the very same government that refused to allow banks and financial institutions to compete fairly, and it was less than two years ago that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were quasi-government institutions. Today they are full on government entities. There is no evidence to suggest that the government would take a hands off approach. In addition, the litany of regulations that would be in place in the public option would give us government health care by proxy. I do not want to see us move towards a nationalized single payer health care system. We have seen from our Canadian and British friends that these health care systems are dysfunctional. They cannot contain costs and the shortage of resources cause waiting lists and force them to ration care. I am asking you to instead support reform as outlined by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, in the Wall Street Journal on August 11:
This is the type of reform that we need to see. We do not need the government, nor does it have the Constitutional authority, to involve itself in the free market. The free market is by definition a market free from government intrusion. This is also the one component of the President's proposals that is causing the most division. For the President to be pushing something this divisive is a violation of his campaign promise to bring Democrats, Republicans and Independents together.
Again, please vote against any health care/insurance reform bill that includes a public option.
Thank you for your time.