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There probably isnt a more complex or contentious issue before Congress these days than health care reform. There are so many players, and so many moving parts, that its tough to break the full debate into neatly compartmentalized pieces.
Now, the real work begins. President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders have had their summits and their stakeholder meetings. Now they are starting to debate the actual details of health care reform.
The American people are sending a message to Congress in 2009: If at first you dont succeed, try, try again. This country has considered health care reform on numerous occasions over the past century. In the early 1900s, the Progressive Party took up the issue. In the 1930s and 40s, the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill would have achieved national health care reform. Building on that bill, President Harry Truman tried to address health care in the late 1940s. President Richard Nixon had a proposal in the early 1970s. And President Bill Clinton proposed the Health Security Act in the early 1990s. Yet today, despite these his- toric efforts, millions of Americans still struggle to obtain quality, affordable health care.
The landmark economic recovery package proposed by President Barack Obama and passed by Congress in February was a decisive first step to leading Americans out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
There are few issues that have garnered as much attention lately as the issue of health care reform. Costs are too high, access is too limited outside of your employer, and American families and small businesses are looking for help. There is bipartisan consensus on those facts. So thats probably a good place to start looking for solutions.
In his speech to Congress last month, President Barack Obama stated his intention to see health care reform passed this year. He also made it clear that the heart of his reform plan will be a sharp new emphasis on wellness and disease prevention. As the president said, it is time to make the largest investment ever in preventive care because thats one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.
As our nation confronts its greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, we have embarked on the second attempt in a generation to reform health care. Some might postpone that effort, but escalating costs are jeopardizing coverage for many families and with premiums rising 120 percent in just the past 10 years, four times the increase in wages the health and economic well-being of our nation demands action.
For the first time in a long time, people across the country are taking a good, hard look at their budgets and finding places to cut costs. Theyre realizing how much money they throw away in extras they dont need or things they buy but never use. The same can be said about the nations health care system.
I just want to figure out what works, President Barack Obama said during the recent White House forum on health care. Many leaders have centered their health care reform discussion on a new government-option insurance. Medicare and Medicaid are the current government-sponsored health care options. They are not new, and many people, myself included, would argue that there is certainly room for improvement. I would hardly call them the model for reform.
Americans want Congress to pass meaningful legislation to reduce health costs, improve access to needed care, expand coverage and shore up the unstable Medicare program. Controlling rising costs remains the top priority on the health reform agenda. Rising health costs make health insurance coverage unaffordable for millions of Americans. Others face massive increases in co-payments, premiums and deductibles. Nevertheless, solutions to these problems must first allow Americans to maintain their existing private coverage.
In my more than 50 years of serving in the House, no issue has captured my attention or passion quite like health care reform. Since my first day in office, I have been committed to this issue, and today, more than five decades later, my commitment remains steadfast. The resolve to achieve universal health care is just as noble as it was when I first entered Congress, but the urgency is far greater.