Monday, November 9, 2009

Historic health reform will expand coverage, end insurance company abuses, unions say

health insurance

ST. PAUL - Unions in Minnesota and across the country are praising U.S. House passage of historic health reform that will expand coverage and cut costs.

Late Saturday, on a 220-215 vote, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which will provide health coverage for millions of uninsured, require employers who aren’t providing insurance to pay into the system and create a public option as an alternative to private insurance.

Among Minnesota’s delegation, DFLers Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, James Oberstar and Tim Walz voted yes, while DFLer Collin Peterson and Republicans Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen voted no.

Focus now moves to the Senate, where debate is expected to take place over the next several weeks. If the Senate passes health care reform, the two houses will need to reconcile their measures before sending legislation to President Obama for his signature.

‘Historic moment’
“This is a truly historic moment and one that many of us have been fighting for decades to achieve,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. Unions and other advocates of health reform had stepped up efforts in recent weeks to urge members of Congress to pass the legislation.

The House plan “will end insurance company abuses, require employers to pay a fair share and establish a strong public option to lower costs and make insurance companies compete,” Trumka said. “And it won't tax the benefits of hard-working middle class families.”

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents many health care workers, said the vote “will be remembered as a pinnacle moment when Congress showed the courage necessary to live up to our American ideals."

He also praised the legislation for preventing insurers from discriminating against people because of pre-existing medical conditions and from dropping them from coverage when they get sick.

Expressing thanks
"Union members in four Minnesota Congressional Districts can be proud that their representatives voted to move us closer to health care reform than we have been in the last 60 years,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson.

"Representatives Oberstar, McCollum, Ellison and Walz said ‘yes’ to fairness, competition, security and stability in our health care system. They voted for a plan that provides health insurance to 96 percent of Americans, pays for itself and reduces the deficit.

"The struggle over health care for all Americans has been long and difficult – and it is far from over. Minnesota's union members want to thank the Congress people who stood with us on this important vote – and we will honor their courage by continuing to stand with them."