Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let’s Get the Facts Straight: House Gets Health Care Reform Right

With the U.S. House vote Nov. 7 approving historic health care reform, America’s working families are another step closer to winning quality, affordable health care for all.

The citizens of Wisconsin owe thanks to Reps. Kagen, Baldwin, Kind, Moore, and Obey, who voted for the bill, and have every right to be very disappointed in Reps. Ryan, Sensenbrenner and Petri, who did not.

I am particularly grateful to our own Representative Dr. Steve Kagen; his vote clearly indicates that he put people first, rather than insurance company special interests. He has also made many strong public statements explaining and supporting reform.

Representatives who supported the bill faced down a daylong barrage of blatant falsehoods from opponents. Let’s get the facts straight.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act, which now must be merged with a bill the Senate is expected to pass in coming weeks, covers 96 percent of Americans, is fully paid for and reduces the federal deficit, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The White House Council of Economic Advisers confirms it will aid job creation in both the short term and the long term.

At the core of the House health care bill is shared responsibility—individuals, companies and government all have a role. Companies are required to cover employees or pay into a common fund, so the rest of us don’t have to pick up the health care tab for the workers of highly profitable companies. Small businesses are exempt and tax credits will help small responsible employers take part. Individuals must have insurance, but low-income people will get help paying for health insurance. Every year, about $1,000 of our health insurance costs goes to cover the uninsured. Bringing previously uninsured people into the insurance risk pool is key to driving down health care costs for all of us.

The House bill increases choice by adding a strong public health insurance plan option that will drive down health care costs by forcing private insurers to compete. The public plan is an option. If your employer provides insurance, you can keep it. If not, the insurance market, including the public plan and private plans, is open to your choice. And if you can’t afford insurance, this bill will get you help.

The House bill helps America’s seniors by strengthening and improving Medicare benefits and attacking waste, fraud and inefficiency—including gross overpayments to insurance companies that provide Medicare Advantage plans. These overpayments do nothing to improve care for seniors—they just raise costs and weaken Medicare. The Alliance for Retired Americans and the AARP support the House bill as the right choice for older Americans.

Under the House bill, veterans and their families will continue receiving care as they do now through the VA and TRICARE—but they gain the opportunity to get additional coverage, if they choose, by enrolling in an insurance plan through the bill’s Health Insurance Exchange.

There are right ways and wrong ways to reform America’s broken health care system. Allowing big private insurers to continue to call the shots that mean life and death to us is wrong. Allowing wealthy companies to shirk their responsibilities and shift the burden of health care for their employees to taxpayer-funded programs is wrong. Financing reform on the backs of middle-class families by taxing health care benefits is wrong.

The House got it right. Let’s hope that the Senate follows their lead.

Tony Vanderbloemen
Greater Green Bay Labor Council
1570 Elizabeth St.Green Bay, WI 54302

NOTE: Tony was a long time Local President of the Northeastern Wisconsin Area Local APWU in Green Bay, WI. This article appeared in the Green Bay Press Gazette on November 25, 2009.

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