by AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee | March 16, 2010
This is the week we've been waiting for.
This is the week when Democrats in Congress can prove that it is still possible for our political institutions to stand with the American people in a time of crisis.
This is the week when we will tell who is looking out for political cover and who is standing with patients, families and doctors who need health care reform.
Let's be clear about what is at stake when the House votes on health care reform. How you answer these six questions will answer how you stand on health care reform:
- Should insurance companies be able to deny patients coverage if they have a preexisting condition? This bill will end the ability of insurance companies to abuse Americans who have pre-existing conditions.
- Should insurance companies be able to end your insurance coverage when you get sick? This bill will end their ability to do that.
- Should insurance companies be able to double premiums and deductibles whenever they want with no controls on their actions? This bill will regulate the insurance companies and allow the government to prevent massive hikes in premiums and deductibles that individuals and business have to pay.
- Should insurance companies have to pay for preventive care? This bill will require it.
- Should parents be able to keep their unemployed children on their policies until the young adult turns 26? That's in the bill.
- Should taxpayers be paying more than $500,000 in subsidies to the insurance companies? Those sweetheart deals end when President Obama signs health care reform.
Health care reform will lay the groundwork for covering an additional 31 million uninsured Americans. A family of three earning $37,000 a year would pay less than $200 per month for good health insurance for the entire family. The family's out-of-pocket costs would be limited too, so even if someone in the family faced a serious illness, they would not have to pay more than $4,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.
Don't believe the corporate flacks and Republican talking heads who tell you this is a complicated issue. There is nothing complicated about it. The only people on Capitol Hill who are confused about health care reform are the people in the pockets of insurance company executives. The folks you see on cable TV, who say we need to start over and spend another year — or another decade — before we pass the reform Americans need, are folks who are reading talking points written by insurance company lobbyists and Republican party pollsters. They say that the public opposes reform, but what the public really opposes are the Republican attempts to water down reform and keep the insurance companies happy.
Now, the top Republicans in Congress are spreading the lie that President Obama's reforms will hurt Medicare recipients. They are making this up, just as they made up the charges about socialized medicine, government control of health care and death panels. These frauds — and that's what these politicians are — claim that Medicare will be threatened by President Obama's reforms. These are the same characters who have tried for years to cut Medicare funding and privatize Social Security. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor can run from their records, but they can't hide. Seniors are not going to buy their new found love of Medicare.
These are the same people claiming we can't afford health care reform. They ignore the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, which concluded that health care reform actually cuts the federal deficit. That's because President Obama is cutting the waste and fraud that Republicans and the insurance companies allowed to spread in the health care system. He's asking wealthy Americans to pay a bit more so that Medicare will be more solvent and the federal government's health care costs will decline in the years ahead. Seniors will be happy to know that these reforms will end the donut hole they face on their prescription drug benefit, so they won't have to worry about losing their savings to prescription bills.
If you care about regulating the insurance companies, cutting the deficit, strengthening Medicare and helping working families, you need to take action today. Call your member of Congress and tell them to support health care reform. You can call your U.S. representative now toll free at 888-460-0813. Tell them the time has come to stand up to the insurance companies. The time has come to pass health care reform.
AFSCME members are doing their part. We will make tens of thousands of calls and write letters. We will spend $1 million on television ads this week to let members of Congress know that working families will not let the insurance industry and their front groups dominate the television airways as this historic opportunity to end insurance company abuses comes to a vote.
Don't be fooled by the insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP operatives. If we fail to defeat the insurance companies, Americans will look back at this week as the one when we lost the best chance in generations to pass a bill to help working families deal with health care. Call your representative and tell them to support health care reform. It's time to rein in the abuses. It's time to control skyrocketing costs. It's time for an up-or-down Congressional vote.
It's time to tell the insurance companies: Your time is up.