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Black lawmakers applaud Obama's health care reform

By Staff

March 22, 2010, 12:30 a.m. - Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, issued the following statement on the passage of  health care reform legislation: 

“This morning many members of the Congressional Black Caucus attended church services together, where we were reminded of the moral imperative to reform health care. 

“Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were strengthened by the power of prayer to forge ahead with clarity of purpose, courage and determination, undeterred by the losing hateful rhetoric and threatening tactics of anti-health care protesters. 

“Tonight, my colleagues and I cast an historic vote to improve the health and wellness of millions of Americans who suffer because they are uninsured and under-insured and because of massive gaps in our nation’s health care system. 

“We cast our votes for all those people who deserve health care but simply can’t afford it. We cast our votes for our senior citizens who will see their prescription drug costs go down. We cast our votes for our children and grandchildren, so that they can live longer, fuller and healthier lives. We cast our votes in the memory of those people who didn’t have preventive care and died prematurely. 

“The Congressional Black Caucus worked tirelessly to make sure that this bill holds insurance companies accountable and included a number of cost-saving provisions. We were vocal advocates for provisions in the bill to combat health disparities, illnesses and diseases that disproportionately affect our community. 

“To those who suffer from those health disparities, our vote tonight carries significance similar to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in that it fulfills a dream that has been elusive for far too long and for far too many Americans. 

“This bill is a major first step in establishing the foundation for a universally accessible and affordable health care system for all. But it is victory not only for our constituents, but for all Americans because it will make us a stronger and healthier nation.” 

Among the key provisions in the legislation that CBC members fought to have included are: 

•            Expanded support for community health centers, which play a vital role in expanding access to preventive and other care in our nation’s most vulnerable communities. 

•            Greater support for programs that will increase the racial and ethnic diversity in the nation’s health workforce, as well as improved data collection so that we can better measure health inequities and develop solutions to end all health disparities. 

•            Strengthening the existing Office of Minority Health at HHS, creating new Offices of Minority Health across HHS agencies, and establishes the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at NIH an Institute. 

 

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•            Inclusion of coverage for resident of the U.S. territories, including a significant infusion of new Medicaid dollars, as well as access to the Exchange so that Americans in the territories will have access to affordable, high-quality health insurance plans. 

•            Guarantees transparency on rates and enables state insurance commissioners to recommend to the National Insurance Commissioner whether a particular insurer should participate in the Health Insurance Exchange, taking into account excessive or unjustified premium increases in making that determination. This will hold private insurers accountable, ensure affordability and help provide quality coverage for American families. 

 

In addition to significant health care provisions, the CBC also fought for the inclusion of many very important education provisions including: 

•        Invests $35 billion over 10 years to increase the maximum annual Pell Grant to $5,550 in 2010 and to $5,975 by 2017. 

•        Invests $2.55 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions. 

•        Invests $2 billion in a competitive grant program for community colleges to develop and improve educational or career training programs. 

•        Saves taxpayers $61 billion over by switching to the less expensive Direct Loan program.

Rep. John Lewis Applauds Historic Passage of Health Care Reform

Lewis said: "Tonight by a vote of 219 to 212 the U.S. House of Representatives walked into history by passing H.R. 3490, the Patient  Protection and Affordable Care Act, the first federal legislative victory in the cause of health care reform after nearly 100 years of efforts. The House also passed H.R. 4872,  the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act , by a vote of 220 to 33, which amends the H.R. 3490, the Senate version of the health care bill and reconciles differences between the House and Senate bills.   Despite rancor, name-calling, and diversionary tactics, the Democratic majority was able to win the fight to end some of the punishing practices that can leave, even those with health insurance, financially debilitated when they become ill." 

Rep. G.K Butterfield statement following House passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 

Butterfield said: “Like Social Security and Medicare before, these reforms provide a historic step toward making good on the promise of ensuring every American has access to high-quality, affordable health care. These reforms will finally bring an end to the quiet struggle millions of Americans face each day with a system that works better for the health insurance companies than it does for them. When it comes to health care, decisions must be made by patients and their doctors, not the government or insurance companies. And that’s exactly what this bill does – it puts people back in charge. In addition to providing the biggest deficit-reducing measures since the 1990s, these long-awaited reforms make coverage more affordable for everyone and hold insurance companies accountable, stopping the worst practices like denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, dropping coverage when someone gets sick or arbitrarily hiking up premiums.”

Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. made this statement about his vote in support of health care insurance reform in the U.S. House of Representatives:

Jackson said:  "After years of debate and decades of struggle, Congress at long last has arrived at a decisive, defining moment.  We face a clear choice: seize this moment and fix our nation's broken health care system or let it slip away and maintain the status quo. 

"Today, I proudly cast my vote to make history and to do what's right -- to reform our health care system, to provide quality, affordable health care to almost all Americans and to make our country better, stronger, healthier and more decent. 

"When it goes into effect, this bill will put the American people -- not the insurance companies -- in control of their own health care.  It expands health care coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans.  It increases competition and brings down health care costs, making health insurance more affordable to families and small businesses. 

"This bill also strengthens consumer protections, preventing insurance companies from denying coverage or charging higher rates based on so-called 'pre-existing conditions.'  It improves Medicare by providing lower prescription drug costs, better chronic care and free preventive care.  And, it reduces the deficit by more than $100 billion over the next ten years and by more than one trillion over the following decade.       

"This bill is not perfect, but no bill of this size and scope ever is. So, while I had hoped that the final health care bill would have gone even further, it certainly goes far in the right direction -- moving the country forward. 

"Just as Social Security and Medicare, this comprehensive health insurance reform bill saves lives and perfects our Union.  It reflects our country's promise and character.  It makes the greatest nation in the world even greater." 

Congresswoman Maxine Waters Votes for Historic Health Care Reform

Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35) issued the following statement as the House of Representatives prepared tonight to vote on historic legislation to improve health care and toughen regulation of the health insurance industry.  Waters said:

"Our health care system is broken; no one can deny it.

"Every day, millions of Americans go without needed health care because they have no insurance.  Some of these people work for small businesses and other employers that do not provide insurance.  Some of them lost their insurance when they lost their jobs.  Some of them were denied coverage by insurance companies because of a pre-existing condition.  And some of them simply could not afford the escalating premiums.  Even for people with health insurance, a devastating accident or illness can be very expensive.  The cost of health care is the number one reason for bankruptcies in America. 

"So we cannot afford inaction.  Today, we have a clear choice – to start to fix the broken health care system – or to do nothing. 

"However, this bill is not perfect.  I would like to have seen included measures such as a public health insurance option like Medicare that would compete with the private insurance plans and a single national insurance exchange where people could purchase the health plan of their choice instead of separate state-based exchanges with different standards.  I believe these measures would be more effective at containing costs and creating competition for the insurance industry. 

"I am also concerned that this bill should not be used to limit the right of women to reproductive choice.  Despite the President’s Executive Order, attempting to codify existing law under the so-called Hyde Amendment, it is not clear that the Senate bill does not go beyond the Hyde amendment.

"Nevertheless, I have decided to support H.R. 3590, together with the improvements included in H.R. 4872, because it will make health care more affordable and more accessible for thousands of my constituents and millions of Americans.  By passing this legislation today we are taking a critically important step in the right direction.

"Many provisions of the bill will kick in immediately.  Insurance companies will no longer be able to take away a person’s insurance because the person gets sick, an unfair practice known as rescission.  It will immediately prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and eventually end discrimination against anyone with a pre-existing condition.  It will immediately allow young people the ability to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26.  It will immediately help seniors pay for prescription drugs and eventually eliminate the donut hole completely.  And it will extend tax credits to small businesses so that they can provide health insurance to their employees.

"Over the next few years, the bill will extend coverage to 32 million Americans, or 95 percent of the population, providing affordability credits for individuals who cannot afford to purchase health insurance on their own.

"Improving our health care system is essential to setting us on the right path to healthier lives, renewed American innovation, and a stronger, more stable American economy.  I urge my colleagues to support this bill and expand access to health care for families and small businesses throughout the United States of America."

Cummings Proud To Vote For American Healthcare Reform

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings cast his vote Sunday, in favor of H.R.3590, the Senate amendments to the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” and H.R. 4872, the “Reconciliation Act of 2010.”

The Senate amendments passed the House of Representatives 219-212, while the Reconciliation Act passed 220-211. They will form the largest healthcare reform package ever signed into law. President Obama will now sign the Senate bill, while the Reconciliation Act will have to pass through the United States Senate before it can be signed.

“Today, I cast the most historic votes I will ever take in this House," said Cummings. "The forces of fear and divisiveness cast a terrible shadow on this debate. However, this is about taking care of all Americans. It is about the spirit that we saw after Hurricane Katrina and after 9/11, when Americans pulled together; as one nation, under God and indivisible.

“With our historic vote, we told future generations that no American should suffer and die because of a lack of insurance, in the greatest country on earth. We told insurance companies that, while they are a valuable part of our nation, they will be held accountable for delivering on their promises. We told our elderly that our commitment to them remains strong, and that the programs they have come to trust will continue to be deserving of that trust.

“Thanks to the reforms we passed today, 31 million Americans will have the opportunity to protect themselves from the fear that a small injury could lead to bankruptcy. 147,000 families and 14,000 small businesses in my District will receive tax credits, and on the day President Obama signs this bill into law, 56,000 young people in my District will be able to get insurance, at fair prices, through their parents policies.

“This is an incredibly historic moment. I remain humbled and honored to be chosen by the people of Maryland to play even a small role in it.”

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