I have written to my Senators and Congressman and finally, at long last, gotten a reply. The Senators appear too aloof to even send a form e-mail like this one. Not personalized, but at least a response. Note to the Congressman: Have your staff set-up your word-processing and email program to take out the mail merge brackets before you send something out…it will appear more personal.

Dear Mr & Mrs [“WalksAlone”]: (I changed our real name)

 Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your concerns regarding our health care system. Your views are important to me, and I appreciate hearing from you.

 The United States spends more on health care than any other nation in the world-nearly $2.2 trillion in 2006. Despite our exorbitant health care costs, more than 46 million Americans are currently uninsured, including over 9 million children. Millions of Americans, even those that have insurance, struggle to afford doctor visits or prescription medicine. A recent study found that 50% of adults with health problems do not see a doctor when sick, do not get a recommended treatment, or do not fill a prescription because of cost.

 I am committed to finding effective and fiscally responsible solutions to reform our current health care system. Health care legislation must give consumers access to competitive, affordable, high-quality care. It is imperative that this legislation be fiscally responsible and work to substantially reduce the cost of health care in this country, not facilitate more spending and contribute to our mounting national debt. Additionally, it is necessary to address the flaws of our current health care system to eliminate the waste and abuse that has significantly contributed to our skyrocketing health care costs. The current system must be made efficient before it can be expanded.

 America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, H.R. 3200, was introduced in the House of Representatives on July 14, 2009. This comprehensive health care legislation seeks to address insurance reform, coverage, affordability, cost, and workforce investments.

 In its current form, the legislation:

–         Establishes a Health Insurance Exchange, which serves as a marketplace for consumer health care plans.

–         Establishes a public option as a plan choice within the Health Insurance Exchange. Individuals who do not currently have health care coverage, or those who are not satisfied with their current plan may receive coverage under the public option. The public option is not mandatory. If you like your current plan, you can keep it.

–          Provides subsidies from the federal government for low- and middle- income individuals and families. A sliding scale will be used to determine subsidy amounts.

While I am committed to passing health care reform that expands access, lowers health care costs, and improves the quality of care Americans receive, I do not support this legislation in its current form. H.R. 3200 does not do enough to curb health care’s unsustainable costs, does not provide sufficient oversight to measure success, and does not do enough to promote prevention, wellness and healthy lifestyle choices. H.R. 3200 continues to evolve as it moves through the legislative process, and I will do everything in my power to continue to make improvements to this bill. I will not make a final decision until I have read the final version of the bill.

H.R. 3200 passed in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on July 31, 2009 by a vote of 31-28. There was a push in the House to vote on this legislation by August, but that has been delayed until at least September. I am pleased that the legislative process has been slowed down and that we are not rushing to pass a reform package that misses the mark. It is much more important to get this right than get it done right away. 

As negotiations progress, I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement that will provide Americans with truly effective, sustainable and efficient health care reform. Please be assured I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and talk to health care providers, hospitals, small business owners and consumers in Western North Carolina.

The full text and a summary of H.R. 3200 can be found on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce website, http://energycommerce.house.gov

Again, thank you for sharing your views about this important matter. Please check my website at http://shuler.house.gov/ for continued updates on my work, and do not hesitate to contact me again about the issues that are important to you. It is an honor to serve you in the United States Congress.


Heath Shuler