Editorial…Congress should pass health care reform bill now!

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President Obama is right to urge Democrats to move quickly to pass comprehensive health care reform legislation. There has been months of debate on this issue. All sides have been heard.

Attempts at a bipartisan compromise have failed.

The recent health care reform summit hosted by the president between top Democratic and Republican leadership in the House and Senate shows that the two major parties have fundamental differences on health care reform that will not be overcome with more time.

Now is the time to vote.

The president must use all his persuasive skills to convince wavering Democrats and explain to a skeptical public how the proposed health care overhaul plan will be good for the nation.

Liberal and moderate Democrats in both the House and Senate should resolve their differences since it is unlikely they will get Republicans to join them in passing health care reform legislation.

“All the Democratic plans are similar: expand coverage and reduce costs,” reports PolitifFact, a nonpartisan fact-checking website, sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times.

“Compared with the Senate, the House plan is more ambitious in its regulation of insurers and generous in its tax subsidies to low-income people, “said Politifact in a report titled “Health care reform: a simple explanation.” The report adds: “Obama’s proposal seeks to bridge the gap between the two plans, but it takes more of its substance from the Senate plan. Obama’s plan also adopts Republican ideas on discouraging waste, fraud and abuse, especially in programs like Medicare, the government-run health insurance program for seniors.”

Democrats must go ahead with passing health care legislation with just votes from their party if necessary.

Democrats cannot let Republicans, stoking fears and misinformation about health care reform by calling it a “socialist” government takeover, prevent them from acting.

Fear must be countered with facts.

If necessary, Democrats should use the reconciliation process which would let the 59 Senate Democrats pass legislation with a simple majority vote instead of a 60-vote count.

The Bush administration used reconciliation twice to pass tax cuts that mainly benefitted the rich.

Why can’t reconciliation be used to pass health care reform to benefit working Americans?

There is no reason why it cannot be used.

The president’s health care reform proposal is not a perfect plan.

There is no public option—a government-run health plan—to compete with private insurers.

However, the Obama plan would provide Americans with greater consumer protections and a ban on discriminating against customers with preexisting conditions. Insurance companies would no longer be able to drop patients’ coverage if they become sick and insurers would be required to offer free preventive care to customers.

Failure to pass health care legislation would mean premiums will continue to skyrocket for consumers; coverage costs will continue to increase for small businesses and millions of Americans will continue to lack health insurance.

When deciding whether or not to pass health care reform legislation, lawmakers should be reminded of the Harvard Medical School study published last year that links lack of coverage to about 45,000 deaths a year in the United States.

The study found that people without health insurance had a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance. The study found that the risk is increasing dramatically for the uninsured because public hospitals have either closed or cut back on services.

Americans are dying for lack of coverage.

The time to act is now.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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