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Begich Speaks to the “Cost of Inaction” on Health Care

Joins other freshmen in call for action on health care reform

Delivering a message that supporting health care reform is supporting small business, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich joined nine other freshmen Democratic senators Sept. 23  in delivering a speech on the Senate floor about the need for reform this year. The freshmen senators organized the series of consecutive floor speeches to focus on the urgency of passing health care reform this year. In each of their states, the costs of health care are skyrocketing as is the number of residents who are uninsured.

"Average insurance premiums in Alaska have doubled in the past decade to more than $12,000 annually," Sen. Begich said. "If we don't act, they will double again about the time my 7-year-old son starts high school. Few families can afford that."

Begich said the average Alaska family pays a hidden tax of $1,900 in premiums each year to cover the cost of uncompensated care provided to people without insurance, and it will only get worse. An estimated 133,000 Alaskans are without health insurance.

"The problem is especially tough for small businesses in my state because Alaska has a high proportion of small business owners; fishermen, floatplane owners, construction contractors, realtors and the like," Begich said.

Last weekend, Sen. Begich held a roundtable discussion with small business owners in Anchorage about the need for health reform. All in attendance talked about skyrocketing insurance premiums that rise annually, and the struggle to provide insurance coverage for employees.

In his speech today, Begich said 52 percent of all jobs in Alaska are held by small business workers or the self-employed. Small business owners, he said, know better than anyone that a broken health care system leads to lost jobs, reduced productivity, less investment capital and stalled business growth.

Begich referenced a recent report by the Small Business Majority earlier this year showing even with middle-of-the-road reform, America's small businesses will save $800 billion over the next ten years, money they won't have to spend on health care.

Sen. Begich is holding a town hall meeting on health reform in Anchorage this Friday, Sept. 25, from 5:30 - 7:30 pm at Bartlett High School and one Saturday from 11:30 am - 1 pm at Friends Community Church in Fairbanks.

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