Congressional Democrats hope to sell health care reform to an often-skeptical public, and Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin brought the message to the Southland.
“The system now is unsustainable,” he told 300 area business leaders and elected officials.
Majority whip and member of the Senate Finance Committee, Illinois’ senior senator got a rock star welcome Monday at the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce Regional Consensus Luncheon at Holiday Inn-Tinley Park Convention Center.
“There are pretty broad misunderstandings about what’s included in the (Senate) health care bill, but the process has never been more transparent,” Durbin said.
Prior to the December break, the House and Senate passed separate health care reform bills. When members of Congress return to the Capitol Hill this month, a committee comprising members of both chambers will attempt to reach compromise legislation.
Meanwhile, dollars spent on health care are staggering, Durbin said.
A family of four that paid $6,000 for health care in 2000 will pay $12,000 this year; at the current rate of increase, they will shell out $2,000 a month in medical costs alone at the end of this decade.
Under the Senate plan, those who do have insurance through their employers can stay right where they are. Those who do not have insurance will be able to select from several private plans. The Senate bill does not include a public option.
Still, choice would be a boon to consumers if it leads to competition. Profits in the top 10 health insurance companies have ballooned 428 percent in the last few years, Durbin said.
Meanwhile, businesses with 50 or fewer employees will not be required to provide health insurance for workers. On the flip side, smaller companies that do offer employee health insurance will have help from the government.
Durbin took aim at pundits who toss out the word “ration.”
“The government will not ration health care.
“It’s hard to argue that health care is not rationed now,” he said. For many it simply is cost prohibitive and inaccessible.
The argument that taxpayers will have to pick up the share for those with low resources also rings hollow. Taxes fund Medicaid, he said.
However, no one making less than $250,000 will have to pay more taxes.
“The Congressional Budget Office concluded this plan will be a huge deficit reducer and will tack nine additional years of solvency to Medicare.”
“Under the Senate plan, three-fifths of uninsured will have health insurance. Undocumented residents are not included in the plan.
Pre-existing conditions will no longer be a medical burden for adults or children.
“At the end of the day, is this (bill) perfect? No,” Durbin said.
“Not all of this will work. But we hope most of it will.”