My Open Letter on Health Insurance Reform

This August recess has seen a remarkable mobilization of legislators and activists for a national health insurance overhaul. The nation has been held rapt by torrents of news reports, town hall debates, right wing media distortions and rumors, and good old fashioned progressive activism. While it is not yet clear what the final legislation will look like, or how far our President will go to make sure that the bill he signs meets all of his original criteria, what is clear is that the progressives who are championing health insurance reform -- in Congress, on the blogs, and on the streets -- are grappling with the most important legislative issue of the day.

It is critical that we pass legislation to dramatically reform our health insurance system, and this reform should include a genuine public option, universal coverage, an end to insurance policy rescissions, and no restrictions against covering people with pre-existing conditions. These reforms are not simply important but are, in fact, a necessity if we are to fix our broken system and bring our nation's health care and health insurance industries into the 21st century.

I must say that progressives have done a lot this summer to help strengthen the backbone of their Democratic leaders on health insurance reform. Together, we have fought back against a massive, coordinated campaign of disinformation and lies designed to intimidate us with talk of mythical death panels, euthanasia, socialized medicine and other fictions. The forces that have worked hard to stoke populist anger against reform are the very ones that benefit from a health system which puts profits ahead of quality care for its patients.

The truth is on our side, and the status quo for health insurance is alarming: 47 million Americans are without health insurance, and 25 million more cannot afford to cover the gap between coverage and the actual cost of medical bills. Even those families with adequate health insurance are struggling to pay for premiums that are rising at five-times the rate of inflation. Thousands die each year because they are uninsured or under-insured.

The answer is simple: we need meaningful legislation to solve this crisis, and that legislation must include a strong public option, without which we will be unable to stem the dramatically mounting costs of the private market and, as the President has said, to "keep the insurance companies honest."

Let's drive the message home: we need health insurance reform, we need a strong public option, and we won't settle for less.

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