Friday, March 26, 2010

Working Families Win with House Health Care Reform Fixes

by Mike Hall, Mar 26, 2010

After Senate Republicans failed yesterday in their last desperate attempt to kill health care reform and allow the insurance industry to control the nation’s health care system, the House last night passed the final piece of legislation that puts working families in charge of their health care.

In a 220-207 vote, the House approved the health care reconciliation bill that fixes several flaws in the health care reform legislation President Obama signed this week—including significantly reducing the tax on working families’ benefits. Says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

With this legislation in place, families will have access to even more affordable care than the reform the president signed this week. Seniors will see the prescription drug “donut hole” close faster, and they will start paying less for their prescription drugs this year. Taxpayers will not pay for special deals that favor one state over another, and primary care doctors will receive fair pay for providing critical services to low-income Americans.

Pelosi’s leadership was instrumental in moving the health care reform bills to passage in recent days, despite often hate-filled attempts by Republican opponents to derail what is now the most significant legislation benefiting working families in decades.

Throughout the health care battle, mobilized union members provided a strong and visible counterpoint to the insurance giants’ television and lobbying blitz. Union members made more than 4 million phone calls and sent more than 1 million e-mail messages to lawmakers. Leaders flew to Washington, D.C., and visited members of Congress in their districts, making more than 10,000 contacts.

In addition, canvassers from Working America talked to more than 210,000 people about health care at their front doors, generating 30,000 health care petition signatures, 31,000 phone calls to Congress, 40,000 e-mail messages and 75,000 hand-written letters urging lawmakers to pass health care reform.

The contacts helped win approval of health care reform and improved the bill and ensured that its financing would be fairer.

The corrections bill, passed last night, eliminates 85 percent of the tax on working families’ benefits and delays its implementation until 2018. Along with reducing the tax on working families’ benefits, the bill imposes a small fair share tax on wealthy families’ investments and also increases employer responsibility requirements.

It also boosts the subsidies for middle- and lower-income families to purchase health insurance and increases funding for Medicaid. The reconciliation also removed several state-specific provisions that had received criticism and speeds up several new regulations to end insurance company abuse.

After the Senate defeated each of the 41 Republican amendments during a 21-hour vote-o-rama and passed the bill yesterday afternoon, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said:

This, of course, was a health bill. But it was also a jobs bill. It was also an economic recovery bill. It was a deficit-reduction bill. It was an anti-discrimination bill. It was, truly, a bill of rights. And now it is the law of the land.
Read more HERE from the AFL-CIO

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