(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, along with nine other freshman Senators, today took to the Senate floor to speak on the need to reform our health care system to stabilize costs for middle class families, small businesses, and our economy. The recently elected Senators discussed their commitment to achieve health care reform that will hold insurance companies accountable, control our nation's health care costs, and improve the quality of health care available to people across America.
"Time and time again, we have heard that our health care system is not working. Costs are too high and access too limited. The status quo is unsustainable, now is the time to act," said Shaheen in her remarks. "Every day in New Hampshire and across our country, families are struggling with the rising costs of health care threatening their financial stability, leaving them exposed to higher premiums and deductibles, and putting them at risk for a possible loss of health insurance coverage and financial ruin."
In addition to Shaheen, Senators Warner, Kaufman, Begich, Merkley, Mark Udall, Tom Udall, Burris, Hagan and Bennet also called on their colleagues to pass legislation.
Shaheen's remarks as prepared follow:
Mr. President, I want to take a moment and thank Senator Warner for organizing this today. He and I both belong to the Former Governors Caucus. And, I think that our experience as Chief Executives gives us a slightly different perspective on the health care debate.
Over the past several months, my office has responded to thousands of letters and phone calls on health care. I've traveled all across New Hampshire talking to small business owners and families who are desperate for help. I've talked to health care providers who are frustrated with the current system.
Time and time again, we have heard that our health care system is not working. Costs are too high and access too limited. The status quo is unsustainable, now is the time to act.
Every day in New Hampshire and across our country, families are struggling with the rising costs of health care threatening their financial stability, leaving them exposed to higher premiums and deductibles, and putting them at risk for a possible loss of health insurance coverage and financial ruin. According to one study 62% of bankruptcies in 2007 were caused by a medical condition. Most of these individuals were middle class and three quarters had health insurance! It is clear that our health care crisis is not limited to the uninsured. Health care costs are a threat to our economy, our small businesses and our working families!
Mr. President, the current health care system is simply unsustainable for our economy. It is estimated that in 2009 our nation will spend $2.5 trillion - or 18% of the GDP on health care. That means health care costs account for 18% of the value of all goods and services produced in this country. If we continue on our current path health care will make up over a third of our economy by 2040.
In New Hampshire our small businesses are feeling this burden first hand. From 2002 to 2006, there was more than a 40 percent increase in the premiums businesses in my state paid for an individual plan for their workers. And for our smallest businesses, those with fewer than 10 employees, the increase was almost double - a more than 70 percent increase. This means that although our small business owners want to provide their employees with health insurance many of them can't.
Ultimately it is our hard working families who suffer. Today the average family living in New Hampshire pays approximately $14,600 for their insurance premium. If we continue on the current path they will be paying approximately $25,000 in 2019. That is simply unaffordable.
The good news is that we know how to bring down costs. At Dartmouth's Center for Informed Choice, research shows that more spending does not translate into better outcomes. In fact, it shows that up to 40% of the time, patients who participate in decisions related to their care will choose the less invasive and less costly procedures. These choices produce better outcomes with higher rates of patient satisfaction. The health care industry can do better for less and we can find savings in our system.
For example, experts have estimated that we can save $5,000 per Medicare beneficiary by reducing costly hospital readmissions. I have introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Collins called the Medicare Transitional Care Act. This legislation will reduce Medicare costs and offer better support and coordination of care to Medicare patients by keeping seniors who are discharged from the hospital from unnecessarily returning. This will improve the quality of health care for our seniors and save taxpayers money. I was happy to see that key provisions of this bill were included in the Chairman's mark of the Finance Committee.
Although the numbers and statistics are compelling, the stories I hear from my constituents best illustrate why reform cannot wait. This isn't just about policy, it's really about people. A few weeks ago I received a letter from a young woman named Jennifer.
Jennifer and her husband recently decided that they wanted to start a family. They both work for small businesses that do not offer health insurance. They shopped around for an individual insurance plan. The policy they could afford did not cover standard maternity care, however they were told they would be covered in the case of an emergency like needing a C-section or having other health problems during the pregnancy.
Unfortunately, Jennifer suffered a rare complication, a partial molar pregnancy, resulting in loss of the pregnancy and requiring extensive follow up. But the insurance company told them it would not cover that emergency.
During their time of grieving, Jennifer and her husband are facing piles of medical bills and are wondering how they will ever be able to afford a baby in the future. No young family should have to go through this.
Mr. President, we have the opportunity to bring down costs and reform our health care system for people like Jennifer. There is no doubt that this is not easy, in fact it is one of the greatest challenges of our time. But the cost of inaction is too great. We need to control costs and stabilize coverage for all Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to achieve this goal.