After thorough and careful reading and review of the health care legislation the House considered Sunday evening, I was not convinced that it was right for the people of Minnesota's 7th District. So I voted against it.
Some people will appreciate that and some will be disappointed, but I made this decision because I thought it was the right thing to do for the people I serve, and that's everyone who lives in the 7th District.
Most people recognize that our health care system needs reform, and since this reform effort began I have talked with a great many 7th District Minnesotans about what was needed. The clear consensus was that we needed to reduce the cost of health care -- for individuals, families, employers and the government -- as well as to expand coverage and fix the problems we have without destroying the parts of the system that are working.
If the bills we voted on Sunday night had measured up to these standards, I would have supported them. They did not. While these bills deliver some good things, they miss the mark on the most important things and will not deliver as promised.
This legislation doesn't control costs, doesn't reform Medicare, and covers only 37 percent of the uninsured in the 7th District, as opposed to an average of 68 percent nationwide. Some districts will see coverage expanded to cover as many as 92 percent of the uninsured, and Minnesotans will be paying for that, while 63 percent of our uninsured 7th District residents go without coverage.
This is similar to the way the Medicare geographic disparities problem was created back in 1982. The geographic payment disparity encourages cost-shifting and rewards low-quality, high-cost health care providers in other states while forcing Minnesota to do more with less. Instead of fixing that problem -- which we need to do -- this legislation will lock us into that same disparity situation with regard to the uninsured.
Minnesotans will be asked to do more with less while also covering costs in other states that aren't doing the right thing for their own citizens. And on top of that, this legislation will not control costs -- in fact, it seems to me that it will do just the opposite; health insurance premiums will rise. The Congressional Budget Office has said that premiums for individuals will increase by 10 to 13 percent.
That said, there are some good things in this legislation. It will end preexisting- condition exclusions for children within six months of enactment and do the same thing for adults when the "exchange" marketplaces are operative in 2014 -- if they work as proponents claim they will (which is doubtful). It will allow children to stay on their parents' health care plans until age 26, and it will end the practice of rescinding coverage when you get sick.
However, this legislation avoided making the critical reforms we need in order to strengthen our rural health care system. It punts these problems into the future, when it's likely that they'll be even more difficult and more expensive to solve.
As the administration begins putting these reforms in place I will continue working to fix the problems I've outlined and to ensure that everyone in the 7th District has access to affordable health care. I will work to hold the administration accountable, and I will keep working to make the changes we need in order for these new policies and health care delivery systems to be workable in rural areas.
Throughout my service in Congress I've made it a point to study each issue and each piece of legislation and cast my votes according to what makes the most sense for the people of my district. That is what I did Sunday evening.
Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. This is adapted from a statement published on his website.