Today, Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) released the following statement in support of the health care reform legislation expected to be considered by Congress tomorrow:

“There are far too many people in our country who either do not have insurance or are underinsured, and the cost of insurance is escalating at unacceptable rates.  We have to cover more people and get costs under control now.  

“These are very, very difficult goals to accomplish.  For over 75 years, Republicans and Democrats alike have bemoaned the current health care system.  It costs too much, covers too few, and often doesn’t provide the best results.  If we’ve discovered anything in our pursuit for reform, it’s that this is a difficult issue to address - but that is not a reason to avoid the problem.  If we are truly committed to addressing these issues, we cannot simply rage against what is wrong; we must do what we can to fix them.  

“I support this legislation because it is the best available step forward for reform.  With health care costs ever increasing, we need leadership on these tough issues.  The option before us is imperfect, but it begins the process in a substantial way.  The fact that reform is controversial should not be a reason to avoid it.  Supporting change now demonstrates leadership.  

“This bill will cover an estimated 30 million additional Americans and save more than $1 trillion in the long term.  These are huge steps forward in the reform process. These two key facts make it imperative that we pass this legislation and move forward now.

“The legislation before us is better than the House bill that was passed in November.  It does a much better job of getting costs under control.  The numbers demonstrate that this legislation will not only help reduce costs in the short term, but also help bend the long term cost curve.  The legislation moves forward on rewarding quality of care over quantity.  We would begin to shift away from the failed fee-for-service model that encourages high levels of utilization without regard to the quality of that care.  Instead, it encourages accountable care organizations (ACOs), which emphasize overall quality of care over the sheer number of visits, tests, and referrals.  We will have to monitor and adjust these policies as we move forward and see how they are implemented, but they will actively work toward controlling costs and improving the quality of health care in this country.

“This legislation includes a number of ideas from both sides of the aisle, such as portability, which allows insurance companies to sell insurance over state lines. It also encourages employers to provide incentives for their employees to manage controllable health factors known to lead to long term health issues. These incentives will help create an overall healthier society, and encourage individuals to control their own health care costs.

“Americans will be touched directly by the improvement in care.  In addition to no longer being denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, Americans will have access to a greater choice of plans at more affordable rates.  The quality of care will also improve as doctors are rewarded for quality rather than quantity of care.  

“Further, this legislation empowers states to be the drivers of reform - not the federal government.  States have the ability to set up the exchanges to help individuals find quality health insurance, and states will be the primary regulators of insurance companies, rather than the federal government.  

“Over the last year, we have seen an extraordinary level of engagement from the American people about reform. In fact, in all my years a legislator, I have never seen this level of involvement from my constituents. This is a promising sign for the vitality of our civic culture and I hope we continue to see this level of participation as we move forward to address the many difficult issues our country faces.

“This vote is not by any means the end of Congress’ work to improve health care in this country.  If this legislation passes tomorrow, the months and years ahead will be filled with the continued work to improve upon these ideas, learn from our mistakes, and work toward a system that is sustainable and provides access to quality health care for all Americans.  

“Health care is an incredibly difficult issue to address, but I believe that I was elected to make difficult decisions, not to hide from them.  Leadership is about making the tough choices and I have chosen to support this legislation to give Americans the opportunity to have a better health care system.”