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America’s Need for Health Reform

Elizabeth Edwards Testifies Before the House Subcommittee on Health, Committee on Energy and Commerce

CAPAF Senior Fellow Elizabeth Edwards testifies before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce about the need for health reform.

SOURCE: Center for American Progress

Read the full testimony (CAPAF)

We are in the middle of a great debate on health care in the United States. We see it in the major debates led by Massachusetts and California. We see it discussed in more than a dozen states from Maine to New Mexico. We see the health reform debate in the many bipartisan and strange bedfellow efforts that have developed. We see the debate in the reform collations that have formed, such as HCAN and Better Health Care Together. And lest we forget, the debate is happening at every kitchen table in the country, since health costs are part of our economic meltdown. Of course, some on this committee have been a part of the fight for better health care for a long time, and I’d like to thank Mr. Dingell in particular for his leadership.

But for the first time in 15 years, there promises to be a major health care debate here in Congress. Both the Republican and Democratic nominees for president have engaged in a serious health care discussion. Everyone here knows the twin problems of our broken status quo:

  • 45 million uninsured. Health insurance is how we access care in the United States today. It is virtually the first question you are asked when you call a physician’s office or go to the hospital.
  • Skyrocketing costs. The cost of our health care system is astronomical and constantly growing. Total health care spending in the United States doubled between 1996 and 2006, and without reform it is expected to double again in the coming decade.

Given the limited time and the impressiveness of the panel, I want to use my time to talk about the importance of health reform to:

  • Address health care for all and cost-containment simultaneously. Effective cost containment requires that everyone have coverage, and covering all requires that coverage must be affordable.
  • Strengthen the role of the group market. Grouping health risk in the marketplace through employer-based benefits is one of the few things we do well in the U.S. health system. Use of the individual market will undeniably weaken care delivery as more Americans become subject to pre-existing exclusions, higher cost sharing, and absent benefits.
  • Use care in exploring tax credits. Reforming the tax treatment of health insurance may be an important part of health reform. However, done poorly, it could actually diminish Americans’ access to coverage. For a health insurance tax credit to work properly to expand coverage, it must make meaningful insurance coverage affordable, reflecting both family size and the rate of medical inflation. And it must not threaten employer-sponsored health insurance, which most Americans have and want to keep.

Read the full testimony (CAPAF)

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