Editor's Note: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents Florida's 20th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. She is also Chairwoman of the Committee on Appropriations' Legislative Branch Subcommittee and Vice Chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus. The congresswoman wanted to share her thoughts on an issue that effects everyone, including the LGBT community- Health Care.
Every day, injured and sick Floridians worry about whether they will be able to get better--and whether they can afford to. Millions of Americans across the country wonder if they can even continue to pay for routine care to stay healthy and prevent disease before it starts.
Some American families are lucky enough to have health care. Others don't have that luxury right now. But even the most fortunate of us are still paying high premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
You deserve access to the same kind of insurance that I have as a Member of Congress. I get to choose from a variety of plans from a number of companies, so that I can choose the level of coverage that is right for my family.
Since 2000 alone, average family premiums have increased by 88 percent in Florida. Roughly 9.8 million people in Florida get health insurance at work, where family premiums average $12,780 - about the annual earning of a full-time minimum wage job.
Twenty-one percent of middle-income Florida families spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care. Even families with a steady income can't hope for reasonable premium costs.
And we cannot forget the millions of uninsured in this country. Twenty-one percent of Floridians are uninsured, and 73 percent of them are in families with at least one full-time worker.
For these uninsured families this isn't just a matter of cost or inconvenience.
A recent study shows that more than six working age Floridians die every day because they don't have health insurance (study by Families USA released 3/2008).
The number of Floridians who get health insurance through their employer continues to decline - by three percent between 2000 and 2007 alone. Much of the decline is among workers in small businesses: While small businesses make up 78 percent of Florida businesses, only 39 percent of them offered health coverage benefits in 2006 - down 7 percent since 2000.
All of these statistics can only lead me to the conclusion that our health care system is broken. We may have the best health care in the world, but when tens of millions of Americans don't have access to that health care and millions more are under-insured or in danger of losing their health insurance, then the system has stopped working.
We need to work together to build a better way to take care of our citizens--one that covers every American and guarantees you have coverage whether or not you have a preexisting condition, or a job.
That is why I am fighting in Congress for a better health care system that costs less, covers more, and leaves no American without health care. Our goal is to make a competitive, fair marketplace for health care.
Let me be clear: if you like your current plan, you'll be able to keep it. Rather, we will build on our current system, so we can give you the freedom to choose what works best for you and your family. If you like your doctor, keep your doctor. If you like your current plan, keep your current plan. If you don't, or if you don't have one, then get one that works for you.
Our goal in Congress is to offer you a choice of doctors and plans, and guarantee affordable, quality health care for all. The program will ensure every American child is covered with the health care they need to grow up strong and healthy, with the assurance that they will never get turned away from the care they need and deserve.
We need this change for several reasons.
Right now, you can be denied health care coverage for a preexisting condition. With our new system, a preexisting condition won't disqualify you.
Right now, you can lose coverage if you lose your job. With our new system, health needs will be covered by insurance that can never be taken away, even if your employer drops your insurance, you change jobs, or you're out of work.
Right now, health care costs disadvantage American companies in the global economy--small businesses are sometimes forced to choose between coverage and layoffs. With our new system, this will not happen.
The solution we are proposing in Congress is uniquely American because it builds on the best of what works, fostering competition among insurance plans, while still focusing on patients' needs, not corporate profits.
To truly have the best health care in the world, we need to insure that every American has access to it and that's precisely what we are working on in Congress.
I hope to be an ally in government for all of the people in my district, fighting to keep the residents of South Florida safe and healthy.
If you need help, you can reach my office in Pembroke Pines at (954) 437-3936, in Aventura at (305) 936-5724, in Washington, DC at (202) 225-7931, or on the internet at: www.house.gov/wassermanschultz