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Begich Leads Senators in Health Insurance Reform Push

Weekly speeches focused on Innovations that Work

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich led eight other freshmen Democratic senators this morning on the Senate floor highlighting the urgent need for health insurance reform to ensure tens of millions more Americans are covered. In a series of weekly speeches highlighting the importance of reform, the senators this week focused on innovative ideas that are already working in other states and communities with the theme "Innovations that Work."

"We are committed to ending the status quo. We've had enough of constituents being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions," Begich said. "We are tired of skyrocketing health insurance premiums hurting small businesses. We've had it with lack of choice or affordability in our states."

Begich kicked off a series of speeches by senators from across the country that focused on rural health innovations in New Mexico, private-sector innovations in Virginia, the importance of competition as a method to improve innovation and more.

"There are many pilot projects, state initiatives and private programs showing results right now. There are other very good ideas pending in the health reform bills," Begich said. "When it comes to reform there are many examples of excellence already underway."

Begich responded to what he called the "naysayers," the defenders of the status quo who continually say no to health insurance reform. He highlighted the hypocrisy of Republicans who say the health reform discussion is purely a partisan exercise and that Democrats are not listening to Republicans.

"What I'm holding up are the actual Republican amendments that were accepted by our Senate HELP Committee - 161 amendments totaling more than 300 pages," Begich said, holding up the papers. "And this stack doesn't include the Republican amendments accepted in the Finance Committee. These are not proposed amendments. These are the Republican amendments that were accepted and reported out of the HELP Committee," Begich said.

Begich said there has been good work done by Senators on both sides of the aisle.

"So let's talk about the merits of health reform. Let's debate policy. Let's lay out our legitimate differences, and then work together on solutions," Begich said.

The other senators speaking today included: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR), Sen. Kay Hagan (NC), Sen. Paul Kirk (MA), Sen. Michael Bennet (CO), Sen. Tom Udall (NM), Sen. Mark Udall (CO), and Sen. Roland Burris (IL).

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