Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bill Nelson speaks (a little) on health care

An item on my calendar later this morning is a trip to Sen. Bill Nelson’s office to deliver petitions on health care reform, so it was with considerable interest that I opened an email from Sen. Nelson with the subject line: Taking Action on Health Care Reform

Eagerly I searched through the email to see what he’d say about the public option. Nary a word. For the record, here’s the full text:

Most of the calls and mail coming into my office these days are from constituents worried about health care. Regardless of where anyone stands on the specifics of this issue, I think we all can agree the current system is unfair, too costly, and needs to be fixed.

President Obama gave some clearer answers in his speech to Congress last week about his views on reform. I found it interesting that what the president described is pretty close to the bill I'm helping prepare as a member of the Senate Finance Committee. I want to tell you basically what this bill does.

In essence, it will let folks happy with their insurance keep it, including seniors on Medicare and veterans. It also will create a marketplace--exchanges--where those without coverage, or those who are unhappy with what they have, can get coverage at an affordable price.

The bill will hold insurers' feet to the fire by requiring them to cover everyone and preventing them from dropping individuals who get sick. Additionally, it will contain several measures aimed at reducing overall medical and prescription drug costs and eliminating waste and fraud in the system.

I still intend to offer several amendments aimed at further improving the legislation. One of my amendments would require drugmakers to provide rebates to Medicare, just like they do to Medicaid. This would save Medicare a ton of money. Further, by eliminating the tax break drugmakers get for TV and other advertising, we would gain another $37 billion over the coming years to help pay for health care reforms.

The Senate Finance Committee will begin considering this bill as early as this week. Meantime, please know that I value your continued input.

See you at the office, Sen. Nelson. I'll be asking if you hear what your constituents are asking for.

UPDATE: A delegation of Democrats and AFL-CIO members went with Jill Weber of Progress Florida to deliver some 1,700 postcards signed by Floridians demanding health reform.

The staffer in the Coral Gables office listened to my complaint that the senator's email didn't mention the public option, and replied by saying she thinks it's to be assumed as part of the legislation. If that's as good as it gets, it's pretty meager. It's not as if our calls for the public option -- and competition to keep the insurance giants honest -- were some idea from Mars. After all, it's what the president wants. But our senator seems unable to use the words.

A little video from the event at Sen. Nelson's office in Coral Gables:

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