Photograph Courtesy of Baron Hill

Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill, D-Ind., left, says he regularly hears stories about health insurance companies engaging in "unconscionable practices" against citizens. He says the federal legislation known as ObamaCare is better for his constituents than it is for the insurance companies.

Editor's Note: In the May 30 edition of The Bloomington Alternative, I published an open letter to Congressman Baron Hill, D-Ninth, about my experiences with America's health care system, specifically with my health insurance company. What follows is the congressman's unedited reply. - sh

June 9, 2010

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your recent open letter to me regarding H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I appreciate you taking the time to share your own experience and make your opinion known to the readers of The Bloomington Alternative on such an important issue as health insurance reform. I hope my response will provide an adequate assessment of the bill, as well as my reasons for supporting it when it passed the House of Representatives.

Throughout my congressional tenure, I have heard countless stories like yours of how our current health care system has failed hard-working Hoosier families, and how insurance companies have engaged in unconscionable practices not deployed by any other industry. And while I cannot speak firsthand about the personal experiences you shared in your letter to me, it does sound like the system failed you by not providing adequate information, as well as attributing added costs and other burdens on you as a patient during the care you received over the past few years.

"Throughout my congressional tenure, I have heard countless stories like yours of how our current health care system has failed hard-working Hoosier families."
Our great nation has been debating how to responsibly reform this broken system for the better part of 60 years. After decades of debate and too many lives negatively impacted, Congress passed, and the President recently signed this bill into law. In order to make a well informed decision, I thoroughly reviewed the legislation during a nearly yearlong debate in committee and on the floor of the House. Back home, I also held numerous roundtable discussions with Southern Indiana doctors, nurses and medical providers, and reviewed incoming comments from constituents. My vote in support of the bill was a vote to stand with those that have been shortchanged for far too long -- and not the big insurance companies.

Many Hoosiers will see the benefits of this legislation throughout the course of this year. Those include:

  • Prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions;
  • Creation of a temporary high-risk pool for the 10,900 Southern Indiana residents with pre-existing conditions to secure affordable care;
  • Banning insurers from dropping people when they get sick;
  • "The bill would mandate that insurance companies use 85 cents of every dollar (for large group market, 80 cents for every dollar on the non-group market) they take in for the purposes of services and care to you, the consumer."

  • Eliminating lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on coverage;
  • Requiring new private plans to cover preventative services and immunizations with no co-payments;
  • A $250 rebate to Hoosier seniors to offset the price of high prescription drug costs;
  • Allowing young people to remain on their parents' insurance policy until their 26th birthday;
  • A tax credit of up to 35 percent of premiums for small businesses that provide coverage to their employees eligible;
  • Exemption for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the bill's shared responsibility requirement;
  • And, not tampering with TRICARE, as under this new plan, the administration of health care for service members, veterans and their families will remain protected under the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Further down the road, individuals and small businesses will have access to state-based health insurance exchanges, similar to the one currently offered to me and my congressional colleagues. In fact, specific language in the bill requires Members of Congress and their staff to secure coverage through this very same exchange system. States will have access to funds to implement medical malpractice reforms as they see fit. And, states will also have the flexibility to offer insurance across state lines via regional insurance exchanges.
    "My vote in support of the bill was a vote to stand with those that have been shortchanged for far too long -- and not the big insurance companies."
    Insurers will no longer be able to raise rates while still turning over ever-increasing profits. The bill would mandate that insurance companies use 85 cents of every dollar (for large group market, 80 cents for every dollar on the non-group market) they take in for the purposes of services and care to you, the consumer.

    My concerns about the welfare of my constituents are matched by my concerns about our nation's deficit. That is why I am pleased the final version of this reform legislation covers more uninsured Americans than the original House and Senate bills, while also reducing the deficit more effectively. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the revised bill reduces the deficit by $138 billion dollars during the first ten years of the program, and reduces the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the second ten years, effectively making it the biggest deficit reduction legislation since 1993.

    This has been a long, deliberative and passionate process that has rendered a fiscally responsible, inclusive and effective final product. I would like to thank the thousands of Southern Indiana residents who contacted me to voice their opinions and actively participated in this process. In addition, I would encourage any readers of The Bloomington Alternative to contact my office if you have further questions about this legislation. If you would like to receive periodic email updates on my congressional activities, please visit this Web site.

    Sincerely,

    Baron P. Hill
    Member of Congress