Bill Foster believes that every family should have a family doctor. Bill voted for health insurance reform to make sure those with pre-existing conditions get the care they deserve at a price they can afford, preserve the guaranteed benefits of Medicare, help prevent medical bankruptcies, lower overall health care costs, and raise the quality of medical care in the United States.
From the first week Bill took office more than three years ago, Bill met with and listened to people and businesses struggling with health care costs. Their stories profoundly influenced him. A young woman with cancer, facing foreclosure on her house because she was too weak to hold down a job. A parent terrified for the future of an adult daughter with medical conditions that made her uninsurable. Seniors who had fallen into the “donut hole” and were watching their life savings bleed away from drug costs not covered by Medicare. A restaurant owner agonizing over dropping health care benefits for his employees after seeing his insurance costs double and double again. The breadwinner of a struggling family trapped in a job that was not right for him, but forced to turn down better job offers out of fear of losing health coverage. A woman who had been denied coverage by her insurance company because of a pre-existing condition: menopause. Every one of them struggling with out-of-control health care costs, and losing the battle through no fault of their own.
America as a nation spends $2 trillion on health care each year – 18% of the GDP, the highest fraction in the world. Yet we have almost 50 million uninsured Americans, including 10 million children. Although we have the best medical technology and the most advanced health care in the world, rising medical costs and a badly managed system make our nation’s overall health care performance disappointing. For example, New Zealand spends about one third as much on health care per capita as the United States, yet its health care system is rated superior for every marker of efficiency and quality to what is available to the average American. Bill Foster believed that it was long overdue for all Americans to have guaranteed access to a basic level of health care at a reasonable cost.
In the year of debate leading up to the vote on health insurance reform, Bill Foster held more than 150 meetings on health care – with patients, area doctors, nurses, small businessmen, insurance representatives, and most of all with citizens from all over the District. In the days and weeks before the legislation was voted on, Bill spent countless hours reading the bills, listening to constituents, meeting with experts who had spent their careers studying health care issues, and studying the figures by Congressional Budget Office, Department of Health and Human Services, and US Census. In the end, despite the fact that the legislation was far from perfect, Bill voted for it because it was a first step in the right direction.
Bill recognizes that further improvements are needed, such as transparency requirements on pricing of medical services, more cooperation on Electronic Medical Records, eliminating the 1099 requirement, and not taxing employee benefits. This is a complex issue affecting a large proportion of our nation’s economy and there will have to be a long and continuing series of improvements required as our health care system adapts to future changes in medical technology and economic conditions.
Finally, one of the most important jobs of Congress is to guide medical research funds into areas that will make the greatest savings in health care costs. Two examples of these are research into Diabetes - on which we spend a third of all health care dollars - and research into vaccines and antidotes against addictive drugs, which we spend tens of billions annually fighting without great success.