The far southern Carmi Times nabbed some answers about health care legislation from U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, and has published them on their website. The website's current format makes it almost impossible to read, so we've duplicated the answers with a few changes in formatting for readability. The gist is Durbin supports the public option, plans to offer health insurance options online, says doctors who make errors in care will have to eat the cost of mistakes, thinks the reform can happen this year if Congress can stay focused. The questions:
Q. Do you support a public option for government-funded health care coverage? Why or why not?
A. Durbin says two of the most important elements of the debate are finding a way to keep costs controlled for families with insurance and making sure people who don't have coverage now can afford it in the future. He supports a public option as a way to help accomplish both goals but is willing to compromise for a "meaningful health care bill."
Durbin says a public option would simply be offered as a choice among several others in the health insurance market and would provide a "valuable alternative" for those who want different coverage or can't afford coverage now. Durbin points to the competition provided by private schools and shipping companies with public suppliers. "A public option will provide competition that will hold private plans accountable and help moderate the price of health insurance," Durbin said in a written response sent by his office.
Q. How does Congress ensure Americans have access to insurance coverage moving forward?
A. The health care proposal being worked on in the Senate creates a health insurance exchange giving people options to select a private health insurer among competing plans. It's almost identical to how congressmen and more than 8 million federal workers, retirees and their families get their coverage today, Durbin says. The exchange would lay out options on a Web site, customers would select their preferred plans and benefits and enroll online in a matter of minutes, Durbin says.
"The idea is to make sure you are well-informed when making important health-care decisions for you and your family," Durbin said. Durbin also hopes reform will ensure insurers can no longer refuse to insure people simply for pre-existing health conditions, such as heart attacks, to provide more stability in the market.
Q. Do you believe there is currently rationing of health care, and would it be increased under a reform plan? Is that good or bad?
A. Durbin says insurance companies now are regularly making decisions that affect your medical treatment. Restrictions can come through procedures covered by policies or a cap on benefits received that means once medical bills hit a certain dollar amount, you're no longer covered. He says that under the president's reform proposal, benefits will no longer be capped. It also would reduce the incentive for doctors and hospitals to order unnecessary tests and procedures because they would be paid for the value of care they provide – not for providing more services.
Durbin adds that doctors and hospitals also would be paid for initial care but will have to eat the cost of follow-up treatments if mistakes are made. "It will be easier for you to keep families healthy, and doctors will be paid to prevent problems, not just treat them," Durbin said.
Q. What do you think will be the outcome of this health care reform debate in Congress?
A. "I am still optimistic that we can debate and pass a meaningful health care reform bill before the end of the year," Durbin said.
Q. Do you think the divisive nature of this issue will continue once Congress weighs in this fall? Why or why not?
A. Durbin calls the need for health care reform "undeniable" regardless of political party. "We cannot afford to do nothing," Durbin said. He said the debate should be less about political bickering and divisive rhetoric and shouldn't lose sight of the problems of thousands losing insurance, premiums increasing and the national deficit climbing.
"This is about America's future, and whether we can summon the political will and sense of common purpose to make the changes that are needed. I believe we can and will succeed," Durbin said