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Letter to the Senate Finance Committee on the expected Mark-up of Health Care Reform Legislation

September 11, 2009

Dear Chairman Baucus:


The National Education Association and its 3.2 million members appreciate the significant efforts you and members of the Senate Finance Committee have made to develop legislation that provides access to affordable, quality health care coverage for the 46 million uninsured people in the United States; implements long-term controls over skyrocketing health care costs; and reforms health care insurance so that people with coverage never have to fear losing it.  The goal of ensuring quality, affordable health insurance for all demands no less.

On September 4, we, along with other unions and organizations, sent you a letter laying out what we believe to be key benchmarks for health care reform legislation.  Today, we would like to express our disappointment after reviewing the Framework for Comprehensive Health Reform you and members of your committee released this week.  Among our concerns is the lack of a public plan option.  To be successful, reform must include a robust public plan option that is available from day one and national in scope.  The health care cooperative concept would require exorbitant start-up costs with no guarantee that hospitals, physicians, and other providers would want to participate or negotiate a competitive reimbursement rate.  That is why over the past fifteen years or so, dozens of start-up health cooperatives across the country have failed, causing plans to fold and leaving millions of unpaid medical bills and consumers without coverage.  We should learn from these mistakes not repeat them. 

In addition, levying a fee on health insurance companies, administrators, and employers for plans in excess of a particular total premium threshold will destabilize employer-based health plans, as those with older and/or less healthy workers cut back benefits to meet an arbitrary premium number.  Further, such a levy would quickly be passed on to workers—either in the form of higher health care payments, lower benefits, and/or lower wages.  This fee would be particularly unfair to the many public education employees who have foregone salary increases in the past to ensure they have access to comprehensive health benefits, or who have higher-cost plans because they are predominantly women or live in rural areas.

Our September 4 letter details other areas of concern.  We hope to have the opportunity to work with your committee in more detail as this process moves forward.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust
Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody
Manager of Federal Advocacy