Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

A Step Toward Affordable Health Coverage For All

Nov 10, 2009

It was a car accident victim who couldn’t get the right medical treatment because her insurance company wouldn’t cover it. It was a family who agonized over their finances when their health insurance premiums increased more than 150 percent. It was a small-business owner who faced the prospect of losing his best craftsman because the cost of providing health insurance strangled the shop’s cash flow.

It was these stories, and many others like them, from right here in the Eighth Congressional District that gave me all the proof I needed that the nation’s health care system is broken. Hearing about these cases fueled my desire to fix it.

Voting in support

That’s why when the roll call was taken in the U.S. House of Representatives late Saturday night, I joined my colleagues in Congress to vote in support of the Affordable Health Care for America Act. After nearly a year of listening to victims of our broken system and their stories through phone calls, town hall meetings and other events, I had heard enough.

Apparently, the Republicans in Congress haven’t heard the cries for stability, security and peace-of-mind at all during the past year, judging by the pablum they offered as a “substitute” bill to the Democrats’ real health insurance reform legislation.

The fact is the Republicans’ bill would have increased health insurance costs for the most vulnerable individuals while eroding meaningful coverage for everyone else.

Insurer abuses

It would have allowed insurers to drop those who were most infirmed – relieving them of any responsibility to cover the individuals that need insurance the most – and encouraged insurers to flock to the states with the weakest regulations.

Once again, the middle class would have gotten the short end of the stick.

What Republicans called a “substitute” was nothing more than a bailout for the insurance companies – the same insurance companies that deny coverage or drop policies when individuals get sick, cap coverage when people need it the most and hand down double-digit premium increases year after year – all the while as big corporate profits roll in.

An end to discrimination

The Affordable Health Care for America Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this weekend ends these discriminatory and deceptive practices. We now have a health care bill that will give uninsured people access to quality, affordable health care coverage.

What we have now is a bill that provides tax credits to small businesses if they provide coverage for their employees.

What we have now is a bill that will close the gap in senior prescription drug coverage for seniors and provide a capable workforce that will meet the nation’s health care needs.

Finally, we now have the promise of a more competitive health insurance marketplace and the realization of the goal to provide affordable coverage to all Americans through the availability of a real public health insurance option while reducing the deficit by more than $100 billion.

Any American who wants to know which side of the partisan aisle is listening to the public need only look at what the two health care bills each party has proposed.

Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, represents the 8th Congressional District. He is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.}