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Health Care Reform - (6/8/2009)

I wanted to take this time to update you on perhaps the biggest issue that both labor and management agree on and that is the urgent need for comprehensive health care reform.  As you know too well, the high cost of health care in the United States has meant hundreds of millions of dollars a year in increased expenses for employers and unrealistic premiums and deductibles for you and I.  As we know from recent contract negotiations, health care continues to be the number one issue, surpassing even wages and other benefits, between labor and management.

    As President Obama said during the campaign last year and at his State of the Union this year, health care reform is at the forefront of his agenda.  The good news for all of us is that thru his leadership and advocacy it appears that major reform is going to happen.  Just after Memorial Day, the president and his administration began a drive to urge Congress to have health care reform drafted and acted on by each chamber before they leave for their traditional August recess.  It is President Obama’s goal to have health care reform signed by the end of this year.

    President Obama has said that any health care legislation coming out of Congress should achieve three primary goals -- lower the cost of services, improve quality and protect consumer choice.  He has made a point to say that any reform legislation should not alter a consumer from losing their health plan of choice or their doctor of choice.

    Proposals being considered by the Democratic-led Congress include requiring employers to cover all full-time workers or pay a penalty to the government, similar to what is being done now in Massachusetts.  It also includes a “health exchange” to allow consumers to buy insurance at a lower group rate, a new government program to cover some of the uninsured and universal coverage bill that would guarantee health care for every American.  There is also a plan to deal with catastrophic illness and care, which is often the highest cost for union health and welfare funds.

    While agreement is made that something has to be done, many people are concerned about how to pay for it.  While there is talk by many members of Congress to look at a series of taxes, such as taxing a portion of employer-provided health benefits, President Obama has made it clear that there or other areas to look at first.  Just last month, health care industry officials – from insurers, to pharmaceuticals, hospitals and doctors, have agreed to a series of proposals that would save $2 trillion dollars over the next ten years.  This includes creating a more efficient use of health care services, administrative and business improvements such as standardized forms and electronic health records, and better managing chronic diseases.

    Reforming our health care system has been a call by politicians, organized labor and business since the presidency of Harry Truman.  Despite the fact that 50 million Americans are still without health insurance, that many working poor and middle class families are struggling to pay their premiums and co-pays, and that business can not afford or will not offer health insurance because of the expense, now is the time for action.  America’s health care is the best in the world, unfortunately accessibility is becoming harder and harder for ourselves, our families and our neighbors.  It is up to you to write or call your Senators and Congressman and demand that comprehensive health care reform is passed this year.


Author of Article ~ Rick McAuliffe, The Mayforth Group


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