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Economic Recovery Tied to Health Insurance Reform

Begich speech focused on need for both

Reforming America's health insurance system is not only vital to individual Americans, but to the recovery of the nation's economy which is struggling through the worst downturn since the Great Depression, according to U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. Begich made the point today on the Senate floor when he joined eight other freshmen Democratic senators speaking about the vital need to reform the U.S. health care system.

"Economic recovery and health reform go hand-in-hand," Begich said. "You can't have one without the other."

Begich said while there are signs  the economy is turning around, there is still more work to do and progress to be made. He cited Alaska health care costs as examples of the need to reform the system. In Alaska, the average health insurance premium has risen 102 percent in the past decade. And, Begich said, it doesn't matter which state, those increases take a toll on business.

"Money that could go to innovation, investment, pay raises or added staff is going instead to insurance," he said.

Begich said health insurance costs for Alaska families have risen five times faster than wages in the past decade. That's lost purchasing power that could be going instead into the local economy or to education to improve individual earning power.

"Today, one-sixth of the entire American economy is devoted to health care costs. That's more than $2 trillion each year that doesn't go to job creation or business innovation or investments in infrastructure," Begich said. "If we don't do anything to reverse this trend, if our opponents manage to kill health reform, this problem will get much worse."

Begich said economic peace of mind is fundamental to our democracy. It is the goal of every family in this country and is the cornerstone of the American dream.

"If we are serious about economic recovery in this country, then we must be serious about health insurance reform. It is a package deal," Begich said.

To view Sen. Begich's speech, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJdtg4hiweg

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