Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Perriello defends vote for health care reform; House passes landmark legislation 220-215

star health insurance

Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello explained his vote for sweeping health-care legislation this week, saying it will make health care affordable for the middle class, provide security for seniors and reduce the federal deficit.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 220-215 in favor of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act on Saturday.

"Whether for or against health care reform, most people in the district asked me to fight for deficit reduction, a fair shake for rural doctors, and no federal funding for abortions. I helped to score major victories on all three fronts," said Perriello, a Democrat.

"Today's vote on health care legislation came down to a simple choice for me.

"Do we sit back and let premiums skyrocket for middle-class families and small businesses, and watch the cost of prescription drugs bankrupt seniors and the cost of health care bankrupt the federal government?

"Or do we take this step today to support middle-class families and small businesses by encouraging competition to bring down premiums?


"The time to act is now," said the congressman, "because Virginians deserve a competitive health care market. They deserve access to affordable health care, and they deserve better choices when purchasing insurance."

'Litmus tests'

The congressman said health care reform legislation meets three key "litmus tests" set out from the beginning of the debate.

_ Reduces the federal deficit: The independent Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that the legislation reduces the federal deficit by $109 billion in the first decade (2010-2019) and is likely to reduce deficits in the decade following 2019 by up to one quarter of one percent of GDP.

_ Ensures equitable reimbursement for rural hospitals: The bill directs the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to study geographic inequities in Medicare reimbursement rates and directs the Secretary to revise payment rates based on the IOM's findings.

_ No federal funding for abortion: Perriello voted in favor of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which ensures that no federal funds will be used for abortion.

Benefits district

Perriello also outlined how the 5th District will benefit from health care reform.

According to the congressman, the legislation improves care for those already covered by employer-sponsored plans.

Approximately 62 percent of the district's population receives health care coverage from their employer.

"Under the legislation, individuals and families with employer-based coverage can keep the health insurance coverage they have now, and it will get better," said Perriello.

"As a result of the insurance reforms in the bill, there will be no co-pays or deductibles for preventive care; no more rate increases or coverage denials for pre-existing conditions, gender, or occupation; and guaranteed oral, vision, and hearing benefits for children," he said.

Perriello said health care reform will close the Medicare Part D prescription drug "donut" hole.

"Each year, 12,500 seniors in the 5th District hit the Medicare Part D donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs," he said.

"The legislation will provide these seniors with immediate relief, covering the first $500 of donut hole costs in 2010, cutting brand-name drug costs in the donut hole by 50 percent, and completely eliminating the donut hole by 2019."

According to the congressman, legislation will protect and improve Medicare for 130,000 beneficiaries in the district by providing free preventive and wellness care, improving primary and coordinated care, improving nursing home quality, and strengthening the Medicare Trust Fund.

Perriello said the legislation gives coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

"There are 10,700 individuals in the 5th District who have pre-existing medical conditions that could prevent them from buying insurance," he said.

"Under the bill's insurance reforms, they will now be able to purchase affordable coverage."

The legislation also offers health care and financial security, said the congressman.

"There were 1,200 health care-related bankruptcies in the 5th District in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance," Perriello said.

"The bill caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $5,000 for singles and $10,000 for families and eliminates lifetime limits on insurance coverage, ensuring that no citizen will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs."

'Political malpractice'

Reaction from Republicans, who hope to defeat Perriello next November, was swift.

Andy Seré, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, accused Perriello of "political malpractice" and said the congressman's political career is dead.

"It's not often that a member of Congress manages to lose his re-election bid one year in advance, but that's what Tom Perriello did tonight," said Seré.

"Maybe - just maybe - central and Southside Virginians would have forgiven Perriello for his Ivy-bred liberalism.

"But they'll never forget how he looked them in eye, promised them he'd oppose Obama's healthcare takeover, then voted for it, anyway."

Politics over people

State Sen. Robert Hurt of Chatham, who is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Perriello, said the congressman put politics over people.

"Congressman Perriello let us down today," said Hurt.

"Instead of listening, he chose to ignore our concerns - putting his liberal beliefs and party loyalty ahead of what's best for us.

"Make no mistake: this bill is a devastating blow to our economy at just the wrong time," said Hurt.

"With job losses continuing to mount, Congressman Perriello voted to raise taxes on small businesses.

"With seniors getting squeezed, he voted to slash Medicare benefits.

"With Virginians working harder for less, he voted to give taxpayer-funded healthcare benefits to illegal immigrants.

"Because of our congressman's actions, one-sixth of our economy may be subject to government control," said Hurt.

"The consequences are monumental: premiums will rise even faster, bureaucrats will be in charge of healthcare decisions and the quality of patient care will suffer.

"The people of the 5th District deserve a representative who will put their values and concerns first - someone who will stand up to the demands of big-government Washington politicians," said Hurt.

"Congressman Perriello made a different choice. One year from now, it's the people's turn."