Kind says consensus exists for meaningful health care reform
While the debate rages on over whether health care reform in the United States should include a public option insurance plan, there is widespread agreement on some reform elements, according to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind.
"We're going to do away with denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions - based on someone getting sick or injured," Kind said during a visit to the Star-Observer office in Hudson on Wednesday, Aug. 19.
Insurance companies that drop people's coverage because they get sick, or deny them coverage because of a pre-existing condition, will be prohibited from doing so by any reform bill that makes it through Congress, Kind said.
Even the insurance companies have agreed to that reform, the congressman said.
"To their credit, they are saying they are willing to do away with those past practices so long as we get everyone in - as long as we get the uninsured into the market. That means there will be more business for them to pick up."
Kind, a La Crosse Democrat who represents Wisconsin's Third Congressional District, has been on an August recess like the rest of the members of Congress.
He came to Hudson to talk about health care, the issue dominating the national agenda at the moment.
He was fresh off an Aug. 18 town hall meeting on the issue at Richland Center that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported as being a civil affair.
Several hundred people were reported to have attended the meeting.
He had additional listening sessions scheduled for Tomah High School on Aug. 20, Whitehall High School on Aug. 21 and Darlington Memorial Hospital on Aug. 25.
"Passions are running deep, obviously," Kind said.
He said part of what he's doing is trying to dispel myths about what the reforms will include - such as stories about supposed "death panels." The House bill would have required Medicare to pay for doctor appointments for elderly people who wanted to talk to their physicians about end-of-life care.
Political pressure has since led to the removal of that provision.
Kind said there also is consensus for changing how health care is paid for.
"Today we're paying for the volume of care that's given as opposed to the value of care," he said. "Studies show that we are paying $680 billion a year on certain tests and procedures and imaging that don't improve patient care ... We've got to change the reimbursement, the incentive system, so we're paying for the quality of care that is given."
The good news, he said, is that the health care providers of this region are leaders in providing a coordinated, integrated, team approach to health care.
Kind said the House bill would charge the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences with coming up with a plan for changing health care billing from volume-based to outcome-based.
The congressman also promoted the establishment of a national health insurance exchange for small businesses, farmers and individuals that would allow them to purchase group health insurance.
"Of the 47 million uninsured that we have in this country, the vast majority of them are working Americans in small businesses or on farms that can't afford coverage," Kind said.
"This is important for people to know," he said. "We're going to build on the existing system. We're not talking about a radical overhaul. The existing system is primarily employer-based. If people like their employer-sponsored health care, they like the doctor they are seeing right now, they can keep them. Nothing will happen that will force them into something that they don't want to do."
He said the national health insurance exchange is needed so if someone loses their job, or wants to start their own business, they're able to purchase affordable health insurance coverage for themselves.
Kind said a public option could be one of the plans offered through the national exchange.
"There are a lot of people here in the state, and throughout the country, who would like the choice of a public option," he said.
Part of the problem with private insurance plans, he said, is that they are typically profit-driven. And some award exorbitant compensation packages to their executives.
"That drives people crazy, so they're saying, I want to be able to choose, do I go into a private plan or do I go into a public plan?"
He said he's working to make sure that the public option competes on a level playing field with the private plans if it is established.
"It has to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining," he said. "It can't be receiving government subsidies to prop it up."