Health care: Not a government takeover, but affordable coverage for all

As most Americans who have experienced health issues can attest, health care in the United States is currently a complex, complicated and expensive system. Health reform efforts supported by the president, myself and many of my colleagues in Congress seek to protect the parts of our health care system that work and fix those that are broken.

There has been a great deal of misinformation swelling around reform efforts lately, and I want to be clear in stating this is not a “government takeover” of our health care system, nor a means of rationing care. Health reform will increase the health insurance coverage options available to you and your family while also ensuring that no one – not your insurance company and certainly not the government – prevents you from choosing the doctor you trust, or receiving the most appropriate and effective treatment.

Our nation was founded on the principle that varied opinions and points of view deserve to be heard, but efforts to incite fear and misinform the public do very little to foster a constructive and informative dialogue. We should not allow this to distract us from the incredible opportunity we have to dramatically improve the health and well-being of all Americans, or from the meaningful work already being done to achieve reform.

I am committed to reform efforts that will build upon the strengths of our health care system while fixing the parts that prevent so many from accessing affordable, quality health care.

Fixing health care will mean your insurance company will no longer be able to deny coverage of necessary treatments due to a pre-existing condition, and the premiums you pay will no longer contain a hidden cost of treating the uninsured.

Health care reform will ensure that you and your family will have the secure and meaningful health care coverage you deserve. A job loss, an increase in premiums and out-of-pocket deductibles, or a serious illness will not drive you into medical debt or prevent you from getting the care you need.

Reform will undoubtedly be costly, but we cannot afford to wait because the path we are on now is unsustainable. Every day that goes by, 14,000 people lose their health insurance and in 30 years, up to one-third of our nation’s wealth could be spent on health care. Failure to enact reforms will ultimately end up costing us more.

Congress is working tirelessly to find the most responsible and pragmatic way to finance reform. We have inherited a staggering deficit from the previous administration, and while it seems unthinkable to spend more money now, the health of our economy and our nation depends on addressing this issue and bringing reform to health care.

One major goal of this health reform effort is to reduce the costs of health care from within the system. In addition to reforming our Medicare policy to pay providers for the outcome of patient care rather than the volume of tests performed, sharing comparative effectiveness research with doctors and nurses presents an opportunity to save on costs associated with ineffective treatments.

From the start of the health care reform discussion, South Dakotans across the state have shared their experiences and thoughts regarding our current health care system and the proposals to improve it. I hope this informative discussion will continue as the full Senate prepares to consider comprehensive reform legislation in the coming months. I am hopeful we can find a solution born of compromise that makes quality, affordable health care accessible to all Americans.