Sept 25, 2009

Thank you for sharing with me your concerns about health care reform. As my colleagues and I debate this important issue in the United States Senate, I value knowing your thoughts.

I have serious concerns about our nation's health care system. With health care costs spiraling upwards the number of uninsured Americans without access to basic health care services continues to grow. It has become increasingly difficult for working families to pay for doctor visits and essential medicine.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, over half of American households cut back on health care due to cost concerns last year. Of the 50 million uninsured Americans, eight out of ten come from working families. Even those with health insurance have suffered due to the high cost of medical care. Sixty percent of bankruptcies in the United States are due to health care costs, even though seventy-five percent of those individuals had health insurance. 

The American business community is also adversely affected by rising health care costs. Large American corporations are becoming less competitive internationally due to the large financial burden of providing health care coverage for their employees.  Even more concerning, however, is the crippling economic impact on the backbone of our economy, the American small business. The current economic crisis has forced one in three small businesses to cut health care benefits in order for their businesses to stay financially afloat.

I believe we must take action to address this situation. However, I recognize that there are many people in Oregon who are content with their current health care coverage and are concerned about future changes to the health care system. For this reason, I worked with my colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) to address these concerns. The comprehensive health care reform legislation, the Affordable Health Choice Act, approved by the HELP Committee would ensure that those who are happy with their health coverage would be able to keep their insurance. Additionally, the act would help lower costs through stronger prevention and disease management, better quality of care, use of information technology, and protection from fraud and abuse. The legislation also increases choice of health insurance coverage by creating a new affordable marketplace where both private and public plans are available for individuals and small businesses. Health care touches everyone and people have very different perspectives on how to best tackle the health care crisis. It is valuable for me to hear those different views and I appreciate your taking the time to contact me.  Oregonians can always expect me to listen to their concerns and be honest and straightforward with my answers. I hope you will continue to keep me informed about the issues that matter most to you.
All my best,

Jeff Merkley
United States Senate