Sunday, April 06, 2008



Virginia's 10th CD is the northwestern tip of the commonwealth and it has been a fairly Republican bastion. It's got a PVI of R+5; Kerry only managed 44% there and, until last cycle, the rubber stamp incumbent, Frank Wolf was always re-elected with with over 60% of the vote. Then in 2006 he came up against a real opponent, Judy Feder, and he saw his winning total knocked down into the vulnerablity range. Judy is campaigning for the seat again and the constituents know a lot more about her this year than they did then. Professor Feder-- who was also the Dean of Georgetown University's much heralded Public Policy Institute-- is a recognized expert on an issue topmost on many people's minds this year: health care. In Congress she will start out not as just another freshman, but as one of the policy experts on an issue that has to be dealt with seriously. Her work at the Brookings Institution, Urban Institute and as staff director for the bipartisan Congressional Pepper Commission for comprehensive health care, plus stint at the Department of Health and Human Services, where she worked to expand health insurance coverage and manage Medicare and Medicaid effectively, make her uniquely qualified to play a major role in developing solutions to the very real problems facing out country's medical system after 8 years of Bush Regime malfeasance. I asked her to give DWT readers a brief overview. Her report:

LET'S KEEP OUR EYES ON THE BALL: Universal Healthcare Coverage Now!

-by Judy Feder

In the heat of the presidential primary battle, let's keep our eyes on the real difference this year, the difference that will matter to all Americans. The difference between "us" and "them," the difference in electing a president and a Congress that will pass real effective health care reform now and one that won't.

In recent months, Clinton and Obama have been fighting over the differences between their health reform plans. When the primary fight comes to an end-- and we know it will-- we need to know that we're backing a health reform plan that will really get the job done.

The fact is that both Clinton and Obama (whatever their differences) propose health reform that will get us to universal coverage-- real concrete steps that will guarantee coverage that really works. McCain's so-called reform is a sham.

Both Democrats realize, and their plans bear this out, that you need three things to get the Triple-A coverage Americans deserve: health reform requires insurance that gives us Access to the full range of services we need when we're sick, that is Affordable, and that's Available to all of us, regardless of our pre-existing conditions.

An A for access means a plan that really covers the services doctors prescribe. McCain lets insurers define what's covered; a plan that pays for a toothbrush qualifies as "dental coverage." And he supports plans with deductibles so high that people who believe they're "insured" will go broke when they need care. Clinton and Obama assure everybody access to benefits like those members of Congress have-- protection for the full range of medical services people need when they get sick and caps on out-of-pocket spending limited to what people realistically can afford. That's what it takes to guarantee real insurance.

An A for affordability means a plan with insurance that middle American can actually afford. The family premium for a decent health insurance policy now exceeds, on average, $12,000 per year-- a cost beyond the means of modest income families. Under McCain's plan, the most help people would get is $5000 toward the cost of a policy. That's like throwing a 10 foot rope to people stuck in a 20 foot hole. Clinton and Obama assure affordable insurance and real subsidies to keep premiums affordable relative to income; they make affordable coverage real.

An A for availability means that adequate, affordable insurance is available to everyone, without regard to health status. McCain would send us all shopping in a marketplace that rewards health insurers who "cherrypick"-- covering us when we're healthy and avoiding us when we're sick. Clinton and Obama instead guarantee a place to buy insurance—from a private insurance plan like most people have today or a public plan-- where insurers accept all comers and charge us all the same rate, no matter what our "preexisting conditions." That's insurance that will work for us when we need it, not when its convenient for the insurance company.

An effective health reform proposal can only deliver this Triple-A protection if it slows the growth in health care costs that threatens everybody's coverage and eats up our incomes. McCain's approach to cost containment is to tell us to be better shoppers, making us pay more of the bill and look for bargains when we're sick. Both Clinton and Obama would build a better health care system-- one that promotes prevention, not just treatment, manages chronic disease, employs 21st century information technology and conducts the research to inform providers which medical services work and which don't. They'll change the rules of the game to be sure our health care system gives us our money's worth.

Enacting Triple-A health reform will be a daunting task. As they've done in the past, stakeholders in the status quo will try to scare us into believing that reform will make us worse off, not better off. Just remember Harry and Louise-- fictional characters in the health insurance industry's 1994 ad campaign-- who misleadingly but relentlessly picked apart the health reform proposal, asserting over and over again "there's got to be a better way."

Today's Democrats have that way. And we don't need fictional characters today to tell us our system is broken. Our moms and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers fill that role every day. The time for debate and discussion has passed. The time for action is now.

And let's remember, our Democratic candidates for president, will not be able to pass health care reform on their own. Electing either Democrat without a strong Democratic Congress to back them up will produce only more of the same-- gridlock. That is one of the reasons I am running for Congress and I urge everyone to back candidates up and down the ticket this year who support and are committed to Triple-A health care reform-- NOW!

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