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Chuck Haga, Forum Communications Co., Published March 22 2010

Collin Peterson says House-passed health care reform bill missed the mark 'on the most important things'

The health care reform bills that his party pushed through historic House votes Sunday night “miss(ed) the mark on the most important things,” Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said Monday, explaining why he was one of just 34 Democrats to oppose the legislation.

“I was not convinced that it was right for the people of Minnesota’s 7th District,” Peterson said in a prepared statement released by his office, “and 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.”

Minnesota’s House delegation split 4-4 on the reform bills, with Peterson the only Democrat joining three Republicans in opposition.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., his state’s only U.S. House member, voted for the bills Sunday night, saying the package would be “a lifesaver for North Dakotans.”

Peterson said he had talked with many people in the district about the need for reform of the nation’s health care system.

“The clear consensus was that we needed to reduce the cost of health care — for individuals, families, employers and the government,” and to expand coverage and fix other problems “without destroying the parts of the system that are working,” he said.

“If the bills we voted on (Sunday) had measured up to these standards, I would have supported them, but they did not. In my judgment, while these bills deliver some good things, they miss the mark on the most important things and will not deliver as promised.”

Peterson said the legislation won’t control costs and doesn’t reform Medicare, and it will cover just 37 percent of the uninsured people in his district while covering an average of 68 percent of the uninsured across the country.

“This is very similar to the way the Medicare geographic disparities problem was created back in 1982,” he said. “The geographic payment disparity encourages cost-shifting and rewards low quality (and) high cost health care providers in other states while forcing Minnesota to do more with less.”

In addition, the legislation “will not control costs,” Peterson said, citing Congressional Budget Office estimates that premiums for individuals will increase by 10 percent to 13 percent.

He said the legislation contains some good things, such as ending health insurance exclusions for pre-existing conditions — first for children, within six months of enactment, and for adults when the insurance exchange marketplaces begin to operate in 2014.

That would be a good development, Peterson said, “if they work as proponents claim they will, which is doubtful.”

He said he also favors features of the bills that “will allow children to stay on their parents’ health care plans until age 26” and ending the practice of rescinding coverage when a person gets sick.

“However, this legislation avoided making the critical reforms we really need in order to strengthen our rural health care system,” Peterson said, “and by doing so it punts these problems into the future where it’s likely that they’ll be even more difficult and more expensive to solve.”

He said he will watch as the reforms are put into practice and “will continue working to fix the problems I’ve mentioned.”