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Sen. Begich Statement on President Obama’s Health Reform Speech

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich issued on Sept. 9 this statement following President Obama's speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on the need for health care reform:

"President Obama was forceful and persuasive in making the case for reform of America's ailing health care system. His bottom line is my bottom line: that the cost of inaction on health care reform is unacceptable and implementing needed reform will not increase the deficit by one dime.

"I appreciate President Obama's emphasis on making sure those who have insurance now can't be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and will be protected from skyrocketing out of pocket costs.

"There are still obstacles ahead - and I'll need to be convinced on some issues - but with the vision of the President and the details he provided, we can see the finish line. Some of the ideas the President discussed come directly from the Republican side of the aisle, which I welcome. The question now is who in Congress will shoulder the load and help Americans complete this necessary journey, and who will stand on the side of the road and say 'no'?

"There's little national argument over the need for health care reform. Medical costs are out of control and now tie up nearly one-fifth the national economy. If we do nothing, for the next generation of Americans health care costs will eat up one-third of the entire economy.

"Alaskans are especially affected by the lack of adequate health care. Some 116,000 Alaskans are without health insurance today - about 1 of every 6 people. The cost of their uncompensated care is passed on to those with insurance. Alaska families pay an additional $1,900 in premium costs each year due to this "hidden tax."

"I was pleased to hear the President's description of the importance of pooling purchasing power to lower health care costs - something I've been advocating for quite some time. By creating a new marketplace where people and small businesses can come together to find health insurance at competitive prices, we can provide every American the same choices we've given ourselves in Congress.

"My priorities for health reform remain the same as when I was campaigning for the Senate:
· Covering people with pre-existing conditions;
· Making sure people can keep their coverage if they like it;
· Increasing the number of people with health coverage;
· Preserving the private patient-doctor relationship, keeping both insurance companies and the government out of the doctor's office;
· Making reform work for small business;
· Expanding the health care workforce;
· Improving access to veterans' health care;
· Strengthening the Indian Health Service and reducing health disparities; and
· Promoting good health and preventing chronic disease."

Sen. Begich is among a group of moderate Democrats who have been invited to meet with President Obama at the White House Sept. 10 to discuss the health care reform plans.

Sen. Begich has scheduled two more health care town halls in Alaska: Sept. 25 in Anchorage from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at Bartlett High School, and Sept. 26 in Fairbanks from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Friends Community Church.

Posted Sept. 10, 2009

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