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Murkowski Comments on Passage of Democrats’ Health Care Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Dec. 24 voted against the Democrats' $2.5 trillion health care legislation and issued the following statement:

"President Obama promised that health care reform would slow the growth of health care costs, reduce premiums and not raise taxes on the middle class. He also said the debate would be open and above board, even broadcast on C-SPAN, though this bill was written in secret, behind the closed doors of the Majority Leader's office. Those promises sounded good when the President made them, but ring hollow now with the passage of a partisan bill that increases the role of the federal government in health care, worsens conditions for Medicare patients, raises taxes and insurance premiums and does nothing to bend down the cost curve.

"I could not support legislation that would cause health care costs and insurance premiums to rise, as this bill does, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO said that premiums for individuals without employer-sponsored coverage would rise between 10 and 13 percent, which in Alaska could affect up to 28,000 people. The University of Alaska at Anchorage's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), which reviewed the legislation at my request, concluded that premiums would rise roughly 12 percent, or a net increase of $1,160 for some individuals and $2,950 for some families in Alaska.  Although subsidies would be available to help offset the cost, it is unclear from the bill who in Alaska would be eligible to receive them.

"Another major concern is that the bill would impose a 40 percent excise tax on high value insurance plans. Because Alaska is a high cost state, ISER predicts that roughly 50 percent of health plans in the state would be subject to the tax by 2016 compared to only 19 percent average in the Lower 48. Last week, I received a report from the Municipality of Anchorage Police and Fire Retiree Medical Trust saying that the insurance plans provided to its members would be subject to this 40 percent excise tax.

"The bill also does nothing to fix the Medicare reimbursement rate inequity for Alaska. Alaska is already a state in crisis when it comes to Medicare patients getting access to primary care doctors, so cutting a half trillion dollars out of the Medicare program, which is projected to become insolvent within seven years, would further exacerbate the access problem.

"A poll was released this week that bears out the hundreds of emails, faxes and phone calls I have received recently from constituents who are opposed to the health care bill. The statewide Dittman Research poll of 393 registered voters in Alaska showed that 57 percent of respondents oppose congressional health care legislation; 64 percent expect costs to increase and 60 percent expect the quality of care to decline if the bill becomes law; and 59 percent want the congressional delegation to oppose the bill. Those are pretty convincing numbers.

"It's unfortunate that we did not pass a bill that was truly bipartisan, one that would take a step-by-step approach and focus on such things as banning lifetime caps on insurance, coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions, enacting junk lawsuit reforms and allowing insurers to sell across state lines."

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