Yesterday evening, Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) made a profound statement to the House Education and Labor Committee. Congressman Courtney said that the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), a government-run purchasing exchange with lower costs than similar private exchanges and without the pre-existing condition loopholes, is precisely what the America's Affordable Health Choices Act in the House will provide for the American people. Almost every Federal employee uses the program - a degree of consensus rare enough in Washington that it suggests the high quality of the FEHBP. Courtney told the story of how veterans and military personnel at the Groton Subase asked him to make sure that healthcare reform protects TRICARE, a government-run health plan for military personnel and veterans, because "it's great as far as [military personnel and veterans] are concerned." To those in Congress who use the FEHBP but dispute the merit of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act, Courtney said "Take a look at yourself in the mirror."
In Courtney's home state of Connecticut, Blue Cross recently announced that individual rates are set to increase by 32%. "Can you imagine what would happen if we had food costs going up 32%? Or energy costs going up 32%?" Courtney asked. With health insurance rate increases of 32% targeting even the most vulnerable individuals, how is now not the time for reform?
In 2006, Congressman Courtney promised not to participate in the FEHBP until all Americans have access to the same affordable health care as their representatives in Washington. Today, achieving that goal is a distinct possibility.
Courtney's remarks demonstrate in no uncertain terms that Congress has nothing short of an ineluctable moral obligation to provide the American people with quality, affordable healthcare. It's a remarkable speech, spoken by a true representative of the American people. The YouTube video is posted below. Check it out:
(Full Disclosure: the author of this post holds an unpaid summer internship position in Congressman Courtney's office.)