HEALTH CARE POSITION STATEMENT

November 13, 2019

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE:

The effort to provide universal health care coverage to Americans has been going on for over a century. As far back as 1912, Theodore Roosevelt proposed national health insurance during his unsuccessful campaign to reclaim the presidency on a third-party ticket. Nearly every President since has proposed some form of health insurance reform, including President Richard Nixon.  President Obama successfully passed the Affordable Care Act (hereinafter, “ACA”) in March 23, 2010. The ACA represents the US health care system’s most significant regulatory overhaul since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. 

Health insurance in America can be found as early as 1752 when Benjamin Franklin and his compatriots created a mutual insurance company called, the Philadelphia Contributorship. It is currently the nation’s oldest insurance carrier and is still in operation. In 1846, a group of physicians formed the American Medical Association with the mission of regulating pharmaceuticals. Fast-forward to the Civil War where insurance plans were offered to cover accidents related from travel by railroad or steamboat.  

It took until 1929 when Baylor University Hospital offered medical coverage for six dollars a month; it covered up to 21 days in the hospital. The plan was called Blue Cross. Later renamed Blue Cross Blue Shield, it now represents 10.6 million people. In 1965, legislation establishing Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The government health insurance program for everyone over 65. 

Finally, in 2010, the ACA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama. Over 17 million Americans have gained health care insurance under “Obama Care.” The law was controversial the day it was passed and Republicans in Congress have tried to repeal the law every year since. In President Trump’s first year in office, the number of Americans without health insurance increased by 3.2 million Americans. 

HEALTH CARE TODAY:

Today, health care is America’s largest industry employing a sixth of the country’s workforce. It is the average American family’s single largest expense, whether paid out of their pockets or through taxes and insurance premiums. The majority (56%) of non-elderly Americans get their health insurance through work. Of the nearly 267 million non-elderly residents in the US, 56% are covered through their employer, 18% are uninsured, 21% are covered by Medicaid or other public programs, and 6% are covered through an individual family plan. One in seven Americans lack basic health care insurance—roughly 40 to 45 million Americans. Of those Americans who were uninsured, almost three-fourths were people whose income is among the poorest in poverty. They are below the 25th percentile when it comes to the poverty level. 

Recent studies reveal that:

*    Medicare covered 17.2% of Americans in 2017

*    58.4 million Americans were enrolled in the Medicare program in 2017.

  • The number of uninsured Americans dropped from 48.6 million in 2010 to 29.3 million in 2017.  Pre-Obama Care statistics reveal that 15.7% of Americans were uninsured in 2010. This dropped to 9.1% in 2017.
  • The majority of Americans believe that healthcare is better in other countries around the globe. Over 1.4 million Americans travel over seas for medical care (2017).
  • Americans pay more for medical costs than other nations. Yet mortality rates are higher than other developed countries. 
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spent $4,342 on healthcare in 2017. 
  • Healthcare, as a percentage of GDP in the United States, has increased from 5% in 1960 to 18.2% in 2018. Health care in the United Kingdom accounted for just 9.8% of the GDP. 
  • The American Healthcare industry was worth $24.7 billion in 1960. It is now worth $3,504 trillion. 
  • A retiree in the US can expect to pay around $5,000 out of pocket for medical expenses a year. 
  • Approximately 4% of Americans declare bankruptcy as a result of high medical bills.
  • In 2007, the Harvard Business Review reported that medical bills became a factor in 62% of personal bankruptcies, an increase from just 8% in 1981.  

*    The health care industry spends four-times as much on lobbying as the number two Beltway spender, the military-industrial complex.

  • In 1929 Americans spent about 1% of the country’s domestic product on anything related to healthcare. By 1966, it was 6% and in 2008 it was 16% heading to 20%.
  • The number of uninsured children ballooned by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018, an unprecedented decline in health coverage for the youngest Americans. Roughly 4.1 million children were uninsured in 2018, up from a low of 3.6 million in 2016, according to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, citing US Census Bureau data. Their uninsured rate jumped to 5.2% last year, up from 4.7% in 2016.
  • The national uninsured rate for all Americans also rose last year for the first time in nearly a decade, according to the Census Bureau. It increased to 8.5% in 2018, up half a percentage point a year earlier. Some 27.5 million people were uninsured last year, a jump of 1.9 million.

THE COMPELLING NEED FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM:

Over a century has passed since Teddy Roosevelt proposed one of the first health care plans for America.  Over 98 years passed until the day President Obama—with the help of a Democratic Congress—passed the first national health care plan in 2010. The ACA was enacted with the knowledge that the law was imperfect and needed to be improved. The hope was that Republicans would join in a bipartisan effort to improve the ACA. Instead, Republicans have done everything they could to overturn the law and minimize its coverage. 

There are many reasons why health care is an issue that MUST be resolved now rather than later. First and foremost, it’s simple economics; our country is spending far more on our health care system than nearly every other country in the world. Today, we are spending over 18% of our GDP, nearly double the amount of what other countries spend. We have allowed our country to be put at an economic disadvantage due to the fact that we have refused to deal with the health care system as an issue. 

The American Healthcare industry is now worth $3,504 trillion and growing. It’s both embarrassing and jarring to find that the health care industry spends fourtimes as much on lobbying as the military-industrial complex. They do so to protect their lucrative business model. At the same time over 4% of Americans file for bankruptcy each year due to medical expenses. Regrettably, our health care system is not even close to the best in the world, which does not mean we don’t have some of the best doctors in the world. It is just the system these doctors work under is incredibly flawed. Although Americans pay more money than the rest of the world for health care, mortality rates are higher than other developed countries. Statistics in Healthcare show that almost 4 out of 10 Americans are morbidly obese. More than 7 out of 10 are overweight. The most compelling statistic is the fact that the number of uninsured children increased by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018, an unprecedented decline in health coverage for the youngest Americans

HEALTH CARE IN NEW MEXICO:

The implementation of the ACA in 2014 expanded insurance coverage in New Mexico by expanding eligibility for New Mexico Medicaid programs. The percentage of New Mexico adults without medical coverage dropped by over 54% between 2011 and 2016. As of 2017, New Mexico was one of five states with a statebased health insurance exchange that used the federal web platform. Enrollment in plans offered on the exchange amounted to about 45,000 in 2017. In addition, the ACA made available to New Mexico $37.5 million to provide coverage for uninsured residents with pre-existing medical conditions through a new transitional high-risk pool. 

Unfortunately, much still has to be done to provide adequate health care in New Mexico. The New Mexico Department of Health issued a state of Health report for New Mexico in 2018. The findings are discouraging:

  • Thirty-two of New Mexico’s counties are declared “health professional shortage areas.”
  • Life expectancy in New Mexico has decreased over the last three years due to drug overdose, motor vehicle injuries, heart disease and infant mortality. 
  • Life expectancy for New Mexican’s aged 65+ was 20.7 years in 2016, compared with 19.4 years in the US. Life expectancy for those that are 65 was lower in southwestern New Mexico and generally higher in northern counties. 
  • Drug use rates among children are extremely high, relative to the rest of the US.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases have increased dramatically in New Mexico. From 2015 – 2016, there was a 61% increase in the rate for syphilis and a 40% rise in the rates for gonorrhea. 
  • Smoking related illness in New Mexico costs the state $844 million in direct health care ands $597 million in lost productivity every year. 
  • New Mexico’s rate of death due to alcohol-related chronic disease is more than twice the national rate. New Mexico has the dubious honor of having the highest alcohol – related deaths in the United States since 1997. The state’s alcohol-related deaths are 1.6 times the national average.
  • New Mexico had the 12th highest drug overdose death rate in the nation as of 2016. Out of all the counties, Rio Arriba had the highest drug rate in the state.
  • Of the 1.6 million adults aged 18 years and older in New Mexico, approximately 235,000, have diabetes.
  • New Mexico had the second highest intentional injury rate in the US in 2016—32.8 deaths per 100,000.  
  • In 2016, New Mexico had the fourth highest suicide rate among all U.S. states. Over the last decade, the suicide rate has increased 25%. 
  • American Indians in New Mexico experience the highest rate of pneumonia and influenza deaths; approximately double the New Mexico and US rates.

HEALTH CARE FOR THE FUTURE:

I firmly believe that health care is a right and not a privilege. A tremendous amount of progress has been achieved over the last eight years since the passage of the ACA. Much more has to be done. The ACA is the first step in providing world-class health care to our citizens. When elected to Congress, I will fight for the following:

  • The ACA, it is the first major step taken to provide universal health care coverage for Americans and we must protect and improve upon it. I will vote against any effort to repeal or minimize the Act.
  • My top legislative priority will be to lower the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate bulk purchasing discounts of prescription drugs and competitive pricing.
  • I support allowing consumers to buy inexpensive drugs from foreign countries, like Canada and Mexico. 
  • I will fight all efforts to remove the pre-existing conditions ban from the ACA.
  • I will fight to keep the ACA provision that allows children to stay on a parent’s plan until the age of 26. 
  • I will support increasing the funding for community health centers, which currently serves more than half of the rural health centers in the country.
  • I support building new health clinics and deploying tele-health technology to serve rural America. 
  • I support realistic health care reform! I do not believe that the Medicare for All proposal backed by many of my opponents is a realistic approach to expanding health care. The $7 trillion price tag over a ten-year period is a step too far. According to the Urban Institute, the increase in federal spending for Medicare for all represents more than tripling all spending on the military.
  • I support  Medicare for all, Who Want It proposal which allows individuals to purchase a public health insurance option like Medicare. I believe that the 149 million Americans who currently have private insurance plans should be allowed to keep them. It will also keep private heath insurers more honest, with a very competitive product on the market it will push other providers to have to compete with the very cost-effective program.
  • Finally, I support expanding the ACA by imposing higher capital gains taxes on the rich. I will oppose any plan that provides middle-class tax hikes. 

In conclusion, I am reminded of the comment made by Walter Cronkite that “America’s health system is neither healthy, caring or a system.” To bring true health care reform, I believe that we need to unify our divided country and present a bipartisan proposal to the American people. As your next Congressman, I pledge to work to bring meaningful health care reform as soon as possible.