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700 State Legislators Back Public Health Insurance Option

Posted on June 17, 2009 | in Labor News | by

The health care reform debate is now on center stage on the national level. But for several years, state lawmakers have fought to develop health care reform initiatives to ensure affordability, quality and fairness in health care. One thing they have learned, says Christopher Donovan, speaker of the Connecticut state House, is that

we know that America wants the choice of a public plan because we’ve been out there in the trenches for years now coming up with models for one. We’ve been going door to door talking to our constituents. We’ve been drafting legislation that creates public insurance options and opens employee insurance pools to the private sector. We’ve passed these things, so we know people like them.

A public insurance plan option for workers and families who either have private insurance coverage or no coverage at all is one of the AFL-CIO’s key health care reform principles.

Donovan and several other state lawmakers took that message to the White House and Capitol Hill today. Organized by the Progressive States Network, they delivered a letter backing a public health insurance plan option, signed by more than 700 state legislators, to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). The letter says:

Americans recognize that the private sector alone has proven incapable of creating a high-quality, fair, and accountable health care system that works for all families. Therefore, a key priority for reform is the choice of a public health insurance plan that is available to businesses, individuals, and families.

The action comes as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where Harkin is a senior member, is crafting its version of health care reform legislation. At the same time, the private insurance industry, its hired guns and anti-reform lawmakers have launched a multimillion-dollar propaganda and scare campaign to scuttle any proposed public plan option.

Harkin says the grassroots voices the state lawmakers represent are an important tool to fight back.

The signatures of over 700 state legislators speak loud and clear for numerous Americans who want us to act now to give them a full range of choices of the best quality, affordable care our country can offer.

It doesn’t matter if you’re shopping for a car or a washing machine or health insurance. Your best bet for getting a good deal is if two things are present: choice and competition. And that’s exactly why Americans need to have the option of a public plan as they shop for insurance under a reformed health system.

Texas state Rep. Garnet Coleman says the lessons in health care reform states have learned can be a valuable lesson on the national level.

For decades, states across the country have done the best we can to help working families cope with a broken health care system. We’ve learned many lessons about what works and doesn’t work, and we’re looking forward to sharing them with our colleagues in the White House and Congress.

Opponents of a public plan option are recycling the same shrill attacks and lies they used to kill health care reform in 1993. On Monday, President Obama, in a speech to the American Medical Association, said:

We know that there are those who will try and scuttle this opportunity no matter what, who will use the same scare tactics and fear-mongering that’s worked in the past. They’ll give dire warnings about socialized medicine and government takeovers; long lines and rationed care; decisions made by bureaucrats and not doctors. We’ve heard it all before—and because these fear tactics have worked, things have kept getting worse.

…no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away.

Let me repeat—if you like your health care, the only thing reform will mean is your health care will cost less. If anyone says otherwise, they are either trying to mislead you or don’t have their facts straight.

Don’t forget: On June 25, join thousands of union and health care activists on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., for the largest-ever rally for health care reform. Click here for more information.

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