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Begich Supports Debating Health Reform

Cloture vote allows discussion, debate to occur on legislation

In an effort to move forward on landmark legislation to reform America's health insurance industry and provide affordable, accessible insurance to Alaskans and all Americans, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich tonight voted in favor of moving the bill under consideration to the Senate floor. The cloture vote on the Patience Protection and Affordability Act is procedural and moves the legislation to the floor so it can be debated, discussed and amended. It is not a vote on the final legislation.

"With health care costs rising every day and 133,000 Alaskans without health insurance, we owe it to the public to fully debate and discuss the health reform legislation," Begich said. "A vote against the motion to proceed is a vote to defend the status quo and protect the insurance industry. That makes no sense to me."

Begich said the goal of health reform is to save lives, save money and save jobs. Every day, 20 Alaskans lose their health insurance and, over the past two years, 33 percent of Alaska's non-elderly population was without insurance for some period of time.

"Currently, insured Alaska families are paying a hidden tax of $1,900 a year on their insurance premiums to pay for those who aren't insured. At the same time, the two largest health insurance companies in Alaska have a combined market share of 95 percent," Begich said. "The result is family health insurance premiums have doubled in recent years and now average well over $12,000 a year. We have to move to bring those costs down."

Begich said he still has questions about how the health reform bill will look when final and will offer some amendments to strengthen it for small businesses and individuals. But he does believe it's important and necessary to debate the bill which provides many benefits including:

·         Cuts the deficit by $130 billion over the first ten years;
·         Provides access to affordable care;
·         Cracks down on insurance industry abuses such as denial for pre-existing conditions and discrimination based on gender;
·         Keeps insurance companies from placing limits on your coverage for from rationing your care when you need it the most.
·         Provides tax credits to small businesses to make employee coverage more affordable;
·         Protects Medicare with no cost for prevention services, closes the doughnut hole, and prevents payment cuts to doctors.

"Insurance companies need to know a new day is coming. They have the right to do business and turn a profit, but we're putting people and families first." Begich said.

With health care costs one-sixth of the nation's economy, Begich said there is a great economic reason to support health reform. According to the Small Business Majority, small businesses could save between $500 billion and $800 billion over the next decade under health reform.

You can read the health reform bill under consideration on Sen. Begich's Web site at www.begich.senate.gov.

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