House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., from left, is joined by other House Democratic leaders, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md), Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), in a news conference announcing the introduction of health care legislation on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, July 14, 2009. (AP Photo)
By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
July 15, 2009 – The Democrats were in lock step underling the importance of the health care reform bill introduced in the Congress Tuesday. The America’s Affordable Health Choice Act of 2009, was praised by minority lawmakers, but it still has room for improvements.
Congressional members representing Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific Americans issued a joint statement from the TriCaucus saying:
“We applaud this important step toward comprehensive health care reform, of which the cornerstone is a robust public health option and the elimination of health disparities.”
Adding, “While we are encouraged that some of our main concerns are included, some significant priorities still need to be strengthened and we will continue our efforts to ensure that all TriCaucus priorities are included in the final legislation.”
Congressional Black Caucus lawmakers have told me they want to see public health options to include mental health and dental coverage, a commitment to strengthen the office of minority health at the National Institute of Health and have language that would increase ethnic diversity in clinical trials.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, (D-S.C.) said, “the bill reduces out-of-control costs, encourages competition among insurance plans to improve choices for patients, and expands access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”
The 1,018-page bill will create a new government insurance option; create the first near-universal health care coverage and raise taxes on the two-percent of the wealthiest individuals to help pay the $1 trillion dollars the bill is estimated to cost. The bill also identifies cost savings to the bottom line.
I received a flurry of statements from lawmakers touting the virtues of the bill and putting critics on notice. Rep. Chris Van Holland (D-Md.), issued a statement: “Our critics will try to scare you, and will fight to keep the status quo because many are beholden to the special interests that profit from a broken system that has led to skyrocketing costs and premiums. Make no mistake – reforming our health care system is crucial to getting our economy back on track and getting our deficit under control.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “This is indeed a happy day, for today we are introducing historic and transformative legislation that will benefit all Americans, a health insurance act for the great middle class of America.”
Republicans have already started attacking the bill, and its doubtful the days ahead will be a jubilant as Tuesday for Democrats. Now the House Committees on Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means, will have to lead the bill through the process of becoming law.
President Obama sounded optimist, “Don’t be fooled by folks trying to scare you by saying we can’t change the health care system. We have no choice but to fix the health care system because right now it’s broken for too many Americans.”
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