Lowell Weicker, Jr., former three-term U.S. Senator and Governor of Connecticut and president of the Board of the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), delivered an address on health reform before The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut. A TFAH press release published the following excerpts from his speech:
“If we do nothing to fix the nation’s present “sick care” system, millions of people will continue to become ill, suffer needlessly, and die.... The worst thing we can do is throw our hands in the air and give up. Much of the hostile dialogue has been created by people who want health care to fail â€” people who profit monetarily from the status quo and people who hope to profit politically. But such profits come only at the expense of helping the rest of us achieve better health.
“The system we have now is broken â€” not just a little broken. It's severely broken. Unless we take action, health care costs will continue to skyrocket. Despite the acrimony and partisanship, I am encouraged that the President and many in Congress have made reform of our nation's health care system a priority this year.
“Senators and Representatives have great health insurance paid for by the citizenry â€” us. In addition, they have a first rate ‘medical home’ with access to checkups and preventive care at the Bethesda Naval Hospital or the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and a complete physician's office in the Capitol. As a retired Senator, I still carry my government health insurance which covers me, my wife, and disabled son at a rate of some three hundred plus dollars a month.
"So, I know Congress can take care of itself. Now we need to remind them that they have to take care of the rest of the country. Every American, regardless of race, ethnicity, and economic circumstances, should have the opportunity to be as healthy as he or she can be. Since this is a representative democracy, every American deserves the same health care as a member of Congress. If that's too expensive for the nation, then it's too expensive for Congress.
"I believe the last election was about getting our priorities straight. Bad health is our country's worst enemy. Without our health, we have nothing. Without our children's health, we have no future.
"The [leading health care proposals in Congress] represent good, important progress. If passed, millions of additional Americans will be able to get insurance by letting more people who are subsisting just above the poverty level qualify for Medicaid. The bills will also help foster much needed competition in the health care industry â€” so a few powerful insurers can no longer dictate unreasonable terms that we are helpless to fight against. The legislation would make it harder for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and for insurance companies to throw people off insurance when they get sick.... Even if the bills are not perfect â€” we can't make holding out for the perfect become the enemy of the good.
"With all of the cost-oriented debates going on, one of the most important parts in all of the bills under consideration in Congress is being overlooked â€” support for disease prevention. If passed, these bills could lead to the greatest advancements in disease prevention and wellness our nation has seen in decades.
"For me, the most frustrating thing about the nation's health care crisis is that solutions are within our reach. The reason that the health of so many Americans is failing has little to do with the limitations of science or talented, dedicated medical personnel.
"The fact that you and I can sit in this room and debate while breaking bread proves there is a common thread of hope, decency and respect which runs through all faiths.... I am a Christian among Muslims this evening. In short, I am an American in a country where the individual counts for more than the statistics â€” a country whose Constitution makes all the above possible without rancor or chaos. Now, I want to be part of an America where the less fortunate have the same chance for good health as the rest of us. That and not selfishness is an imperative for a civilized people."