June 15, 2009
The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy
Chairman, Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
United States Senate

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Congratulations as you begin the historic effort to at long last ensure affordable quality healthcare for every American. Consumers Union, the independent, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, strongly endorses your draft proposal, the “Affordable Health Choices Act.”

For seventy years, Consumers Union has been working for legislation that will help all Americans deal with perhaps the most important single consumer household issue: how to protect the health of one’s family and self in a way that ensures access to quality, affordable, dependable care regardless of one’s employment, financial, or health condition.

The proposal you and your colleagues have developed achieves this great goal—and will bring peace of mind to all Americans. Everyone will always have access to health insurance that will make better quality healthcare available under all circumstances. Those who have good health insurance today will have the peace of mind of knowing that they will not need to change what they currently do—but that if their condition in life changes unexpectedly, they will always have access to a good insurance plan.

We are unique among the world’s industrialized nations in failing to provide this basic “health peace of mind” to our citizens. The Institute of Medicine estimates that about 18,000 Americans dies each year unnecessarily and prematurely due to lack of health insurance. Poor quality of care results in another 100,000 (about one person every five minutes) dying from largely preventable mistakes. Our nation’s healthcare begs for a comprehensive improvement—and your bill provides that reform.

There are far too many outstanding provisions to single them all out. We would like to especially thank you for the sweeping insurance reforms; the proposal for a public plan option that will bring competition to hold down costs and improve quality; the Gateway and Navigator systems to help consumers select the best, high quality insurer; the comparative effectiveness research (CER) proposal; the efforts to reduce disparities; the public reporting of hospital readmission rates, including readmissions for infection; efforts to increase shared decision-making; clearer CER-type facts in drug labels and inserts; and steps to improve the nation’s badly-stressed emergency medical systems.

We wish you the best as the legislative process moves forward. Like many other groups, we have suggestions for ways to make the proposal even better—but those suggestions (attached) are minor compared to the overwhelming progress represented by your legislation.

Sincerely,
DeAnn Friedholm
Director, Health Reform Campaign
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports