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WE begin debate on health care reform legislation. We will undertake no more important task in this Congress. What we do will affect every American family. In preparing this legislation I was guided by one principle: The purpose of health care reform is the well-being of American families. The insurance industry and health professionals are important parts of the system. But they'r a means to an end. The end -- the real goal -- is the well-being and peace of mind that Americans should have with respect to their health care.
Health care reform is a matter of simple justice. Human beings are born unequal in ability and in strength. None of us chooses our family circumstances. None o us is immune to bad luck. We're all susceptible to accident and illness. We all grow old.
Health care takes fourteen percent of our Gross Domestic Product, more than in any other developed nation. Americans pay the highest medical bills in the world. Thirteen years ago, the average family paid about $145 a month for healt insurance. Today that family pays over $430.
If we don't control costs, in six years' time that family will be paying more than $900 a month for health insurance.
All that expense might be worth it if America led the world in adult life span or in low infant mortality. But it doesn't.
Some people can't get coverage for the health condition for which they need care. Some people stricken with serious illnesses find that "lifetime" insuranc limits are used up long before their condition improves. Some families whose children have medical needs find themselves redlined out of insurance coverage, so a sick child's healthy brothers and sisters are put at risk. Some families whose parents suffer disabilities as they age face years of providing in-home care, or the bankrupting costs of long-term care because there is no affordable alternative.
Everyone engaged in the health care reform effort has heard first-hand the stories of people, ordinary working people, middle class professionals and high school football stars whose health bills are ruining their lives and limiting their futures.
Senator Reid told us of a man in Nevada who was able and is willing to pay for insurance for his college-student daughter. But he can't because there isn't an insurance company in the country that will insure his daughter.
She was born with a malfunctioning adrenal gland and is a victim of juvenile diabetes. She takes medication every day to control her symptoms and sometimes needs hospitalization.
Her father wants to pay for insurance coverage, he can afford to pay for insurance coverage, but can't find anyone willing to sell it to him. He told senator Reid,
"Neither Laura or I are looking for a government handout. We are willing to pay even at a premium price . . . Isn't it ironic that we mandate automobile insurance companies to pool their assets and provide automobile insurance to high-risk drivers but we do not require the same for health insurance companies Health is far more important than driving."
That man from Nevada is right. If the states can demand that auto insurers cove the risks resulting from bad driving behavior -- behavior that can …