Saturday, November 14, 2009

PRINCETON: Pelosi visits UMC, touts health reform bill

health insurance

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, in a Saturday press conference at University Medical Center at Princeton, urged support for the health care reform bill passed by the House of Representatives' Democratic majority.

Acknowledging that the bill still faces a difficult path in the U.S. Senate and, ultimately, a conference committee, both Ms. Pelosi and Rep. Holt, who represents Mercer County, expressed optimism that some form of the bill's public insurance option would reach President Barack Obama's desk.

Speaker Pelosi, who noted the president's stated preference that any health reform bill provide a insurance for those who cannot get it through their employers, said the public option in the House bill would serve that purpose by creating an exchange in which health insurance could be purchased directly at affordable rates. She argued that the public option would "hold the insurance companies accountable" by offering competitive rates.

Ms. Pelosi was asked about criticism from Republican opponents of the bill who say it will inhibit small business growth and force insurance companies to compete with rates unfairly subsidized by the federal government.

She replied that the bill exempts an estimated "95 percent of small businesses" from providing health insurance while enabling their employees to purchase it on a public exchange. She said that the administrative costs of such insurance will come out of premiums, rather than from federal funds.
"No longer will people be job-locked because for lack of another way to get health coverage," she said, calling health costs "the biggest chain and anvil around the entreprenurial spirit."

Rep. Holt called House passage of the bill, "the largest step yet in history toward providing quality medical care to all Americans" and expressed confidence that the White House would favor key elements of the bill as it moves to the Senate and into conference committee. Citing the state of the nation's current system as making the case for reform, Holt said Americans are "living sicker, dying young and paying more for health care than any of us would want."

The two Democrats briefly toured the medical enter at Princeton, a 308-bed acute care hospital which is part of the Princeton Health Care System and is in the process of building a new home in nearby Plainsboro.