I recently wrote my Congressperson about the shortage of vital medicines, the lack of patient safety in health care and the undermining of nurse practitioners as primary care providers. What follows is her response, which was nothing more than a form letter. Its rather condescending of her staff people to think that anyone would believe that this Congresswoman took the time to personally answer my correspondence. I think she lost one vote in the next election.
Mr. T Sharon
1165 98th Street Suite 403
Bay Harbor Islands, FL 33154-1750
Dear Mr. Sharon:
Thank you for contacting me to express your views on our health care system. I have reviewed your comments and welcome the opportunity to respond.
Our economy is struggling to rebound from the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, but at the same time it has been bogged down by $2.1 trillion spent every year on health care. Yet, despite this significant sum spent on our nation’s health, we did not spend this money well. According to several reports, the United States’ health care system ranked last among industrial nations for quality, access and efficiency in 2010.
That is why I am proud that on March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This legislation is already at work giving American families and small businesses more control over their health care by reducing costs, increasing choice, and instituting common sense rules that will keep insurance companies honest.
We have already witnessed significant Medicare savings thanks to health care reform. Since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, Medicare Advantage premiums have fallen by 16 percent and enrollment has climbed by 17 percent. 3.6 million Americans who hit the “donut hole” saved an average of $604 on the cost of their prescription drugs thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s coverage gap discount program. Women have especially benefitted from the law’s provision with 2.05 million women saving $1.2 billion on their prescription drugs last year.
By providing one of the largest middle class tax cuts in history, this legislation reduces premium costs for tens of millions of Americans, and by setting up a competitive market, it gives working families and small businesses the same access to coverage that members of Congress have.
Additionally, the law extends coverage to the millions of struggling Americans who have been unable to obtain coverage due to skyrocketing costs or discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. This legislation protects the sacred relationship between patients and doctors, and we must work to ensure that all medical professionals are adequately reimbursed for their high-quality care.
While we increase coverage and reduce costs we must ensure that we continue to lay a foundation for economic prosperity. For this reason, I am please to share that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act puts our budget on a more stable path by reducing our deficit by $230 billion over the next ten years and more than $1 trillion over the following decade.
Comprehensive health care reform has already brought vital improvements to the lives of hundreds of thousands of families in the 20th district of Florida. The following provisions have already taken effect:
• If you are a senior, you will now be receiving a 50% discount on brand-name drugs if you enter the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole’ coverage gap – a discount that grows until the ‘donut hole’ is closed in 2020. At least 12,700 seniors in our district are now receiving this discount. By working to shore up the Medicare Hospital Trust Fund, health care reform extends Medicare’s solvency by an additional nine years—ensuring health care security for the 102,000 Medicare beneficiaries in our district.
• If you are a young adult, you can now stay on your parents’ health plan until your 26th birthday, if you do not have coverage of your own. At least 2,700 uninsured young adults in our district are now eligible for this new health care coverage option.
• If you are a child under age 19, you can no longer be denied coverage by an insurance company for having a “pre-existing condition.” 8,000 to 36, 000 children in our district are now protected against coverage deny.
• If you are among 4 million eligible small businesses, you can receive tax credits if you choose to offer coverage to your employees – covering 35% of the cost of coverage. Up to 22,300 small businesses in our district are eligible for health care tax credits.
• Your insurance company must now spend at least 80 percent of premiums on covering medical services – rather than administrative expenses, CEO pay, and profits.
As this law continues to take effect between now and 2014, we will see other even more monumental consumer protections: including, the complete elimination of restrictive annual and lifetime limits, key investments in our health care work force to increase the number of primary care doctors, the elimination of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions in adults, and the establishment of the affordable health insurance exchanges.
It is no secret that there are many who would like to see these vital consumer protections undone. In one of their first acts in Congress, Republicans in the House unanimously voted to repeal health care reform, thereby denying these critical protections for millions of Americans and adding billions of dollars to our nation’s ballooning deficit.
Please be assured that I will continue to protect the health care reforms enacted in the last Congress and will keep your comments in mind as the 112th Congress considers further legislation affecting our nation’s health care system.
Thank you again for contacting me to express your views on this important issue. Correspondence from concerned constituents like you is essential to my work in Congress, and I hope that you will continue to inform me of your ideas and opinions. Your input is invaluable as we work to shape national policies to reflect the views of Florida’s 20th District. To keep abreast of my work, visit my Web site at wassermanschultz.house.gov to sign up for my periodic newsletter. If I can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact my office at 954-437-3936 or 202-225-7931.
Member of Congress
Here is my answer:
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
20th Congressional District
Dear Congressperson Wasserman Schultz:
Thank you for responding to my initial email. However, I must respectfully submit that your rhetorical response falls short of addressing the issues that I raised in my initial letter. I was speaking about the current shortage of vital drugs and the abysmal failure of our health care system to maintain basic patient safety standards. The PPACA, although it admittedly has some redeeming features, fails to address the shortage of resources and the fact that health care itself is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. You speak of increased access to health care and seem to stop short of understanding that the health care provider industry is in shambles with poor quality of care being delivered in an unsafe manner, with disparity that leaves all of the economically disadvantaged at higher risk of being killed or injured from sentinel events; the kind of adverse occurrences that the CMS has identified as “never events” or events that should never happen and are happening all too frequently. The number of unnecessary deaths occurring in hospitals across America is equivalent to having one plane crash with no survivors every week. How would you and your colleagues respond to the airline industry if that were the case? Why then would you not respond to the hospital industry for the same type of systemic negligence? Why would you not want standardized basic standards for patient safety in hospitals?
Please take some real action by first examining the figures and information available at the Institute of Medicine and at the CMS and get some real information by conducting a congressional investigation to find out the facts. Invite directors of nursing, administrators, staff nurses and physicians to give the facts under oath. I guarantee that you will be shocked to find out how people are treated in our hospitals. If you want real health care reform, find out whats really going on. If you do I have no doubt that you will want to lead the next great cause to safe lives.
Thomas A. Sharon, R.N., M.P.H.