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Making History!

The historic march vote by the U.S. House of Representatives helped break the power of the insurance industry and provide quality, affordable health care for millions of American families.

By AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee
President McEntee
(Photo credit: Luke Black)

Message from the President

By Gerald W. McEntee

The historic march vote by the U.S. House of Representatives helped break the power of the insurance industry and provide quality, affordable health care for millions of American families. Not since the 1965 creation of Medicare and Medicaid have we witnessed such an expansion of our health care system. Rising health care costs — and their harmful impact to our economy and our contracts — are the chief reason overhaul is needed. Families are deciding whether to pay for housing or health insurance premiums. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums doubled in the last nine years — a rate three times faster than cumulative wage increases. And high costs diminished state and local budgets, making it harder for union members to negotiate wage increases at the bargaining table.

Change

Under reform, insurance companies can’t deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or drop them for getting sick. Medicare will be strengthened with the phase out of the donut hole that forces seniors to cover their own prescription drug costs. As WORKS went to press, the Senate approved fixes to the proposed excise tax on high-value health plans that were included in the House version of the bill. This will mean no AFSCME member’s plan will be taxed before 2018. Even then the impact will be minimized.

This wouldn’t have happened without AFSCME members. Despite roadblocks, anti-worker rhetoric and big dollars aimed at killing health care reform, you generated over 300,000 phone calls and letters to Congress and attended rallies across the nation. Our messages appeared on television, the Internet and print media. We made the voices of everyday Americans louder than the voices of greedy pharmaceutical and health insurance giants.

We must also recognize the hard work of Pres. Barack Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other friends of working families in Congress. They never gave up!

The Next Step

Let’s continue repairing our nation’s economy by passing major jobs legislation that will help working families and the middle class recover from the recession. With budget shortfalls for the fiscal year ending this summer projected at nearly $194 billion, governors have already said they will eliminate public sector jobs and reduce public services if federal help isn’t on the way. The result: an even weaker economy and the loss of as many as 900,000 jobs in the upcoming fiscal year.

AFSCME is fighting for — and winning — that federal help. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) helped stabilize state and local economies and assisted states with meeting their Medicaid and education obligations. ARRA saved and created millions of jobs by redirecting funds to much-needed public services and benefits. And AFSCME led the fight to pass a new jobs bill that currently includes an additional $26 billion in state aid in the form of an increased federal contribution for Medicaid, or the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP). For details on AFSCME’s jobs campaign, see Page 6.

Keep Fighting

Reinvestment in public services pays off. For every federal dollar invested in state and local government, $1.41 returns to the local economy, creating and saving jobs in schools, hospitals, prisons and police departments. In turn, the public sector workers whose jobs are saved spend their salaries on groceries, mortgages, utilities and other goods and services that keep private sector workers employed. AFSCME is committed to making investment in public services an integral part of any federal jobs legislation.

Protecting jobs and creating new ones by providing support for state and local governments tops our priority list. I know that the dedication of AFSCME members will help us win these goals just like we won quality, affordable health care for all.

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