Nashville – In the aftermath of Rep. Jim Cooper’s statements on July 26 in The Tennessean and on Face the Nation that he would not vote in favor of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (also known as “H.R. 3200”) to bring quality, affordable healthcare to all residents of his district, constituents in Cooper’s district who would benefit from the bill’s passage responded.
“As a small business owner who knows I need to offer quality, affordable healthcare to all my employees in order to attract the best workers and to compete with larger businesses, I support H.R. 3200 and so should Rep. Cooper,” said Chris Link of Imagination Branding, which is based in Nashville. “I want to know why Rep. Cooper is standing in the way of sensible legislation that will help small business owners like me.” In the Fifth Congressional District, 16,000 small businesses could receive tax credits to provide coverage to their employees, according to a recent report from the House of Representatives’ Energy & Commerce Committee.
“As the result of a billing error made by a hospital I went to, I was forced to declare medical bankruptcy”, says Lyle McLevain of Nashville. “Because of their mistakes, a lack of strong regulations of the health insurance industry, and an antiquated medical records and billing system, I had to declare bankruptcy – even though I had insurance. I want to strongly urge the support of sensible legislation that will protect people like me.” In the Fifth District, H.R. 3200 would cap annual out-of-pocket costs at $10,000 per year and it would restore fairness for residents by eliminating loopholes like the one that sent Ms. McLevain into bankruptcy.
The report from the Energy & Commerce Committee revealed critical ways the passage of H.R. 3200 would improve the healthcare of residents in the 5th District:
- Eliminating the Medicare Part D “donut hole” to help seniors. Each year, 7,800 seniors in the district hit the donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs, despite having Part D drug coverage. The legislation would provide them with immediate relief, cutting brand name drug costs in the donut hole by 50%, and ultimately eliminate the donut hole.
- Relieving the burden of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers. In 2008, health care providers in the district provided $82 million worth of uncompensated care, care that was provided to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills. Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care would be virtually eliminated saving residents with health insurance approximately $1,000 every year.
- Providing coverage for the uninsured. There are 97,000 uninsured individuals in the district, 14% of the district. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nationwide, 97% of all Americans will have insurance coverage when the bill takes effect. If this benchmark is reached in the district, 76,000 people who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage and peace of mind.
- No deficit spending. The cost of health care reform under the legislation is fully paid for: half through making the Medicare and Medicaid program more efficient by eliminating waste and half through a surtax on the income of the wealthiest individuals. This surtax would affect only 3,600 households in the district. The surtax would not affect 98.9% of taxpayers in the district.
- Help for small businesses. Under the legislation, small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $40,000 qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 16,000 small businesses in the district that could qualify for these credits.
- Health care and financial security. There were 2,060 health care-related bankruptcies in the district in 2008, caused primarily by the healthcare costs not covered by insurance. The bill provides health insurance for almost every American and provides common sense limits on annual out-of-pocket costs at $10,000 per year, ensuring that no citizen will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.
“Jim Cooper has repeatedly said that he supports the President when it comes to healthcare reform, but then when it comes time to stand tall and vote to protect his residents from skyrocketing medical costs, he says ‘no’ to a bill that the President endorses” says Tony Cani, state director for Change That Works Tennessee. “Mr. Cooper also says he supports a public option plan, which would help cover nearly every American and would lower healthcare costs by increasing competition, but when it comes time to vote for H.R. 3200 – which has a strong public option plan – he says ‘no’. Maybe in Washington, ‘no’ means something different, but in Tennessee, Jim Cooper’s ‘no’ is going to mean that working families, small business owners, retired folks, and the uninsured may have to continue to suffer under the current system that is breaking family budgets and our nation’s economy. Tennesseans deserve the same peace of mind Representative Cooper gets from his generous and taxpayer-funded healthcare.”
The America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, which continues to be debated in the House of Representatives, has been endorsed by President Obama, the AARP, the American Medical Association, the National Association of Nurses, organized labor, and dozens of other groups and trade associations across the political and economic spectrum.
About Change That Works Tennessee
Change That Works is a project of the Service Employees International Union which is focused on building a grassroots network across the country in support of healthcare reform and other issues that affect working families.