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RELEASE: Body representing every state legislature in country backs public health insurance option

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 23, 2009
CONTACT: Austin Guest (PSN) 831-917-6400 (cl), aguest@progressivestates.org

BODY REPRESENTING EVERY STATE LEGISLATURE IN COUNTRY BACKS PUBLIC HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION

Endorsement from National Conference of State Legislatures signals growing state-level demand for decisive action on Hill

PHILADELPHIA — Today, the hotly contested public health insurance option won a final stamp of approval from the body representing every state legislature in the country. After passing through the National Conference of State Legislatures' Standing Health Committee on Tuesday, an amendment to the organization's official policy recommendations calling on the federal government to create a public health insurance option was approved by the NCSL's full body by a 38 to 11 vote. Legislators backing the amendment cited the need to break the impasse in Washington as one of their primary reasons for passing it.

According to Iowa State Senator Jack Hatch (D, Des Moines), who introduced the amendment, “Today, we sent a very clear message to people dragging their feet in Washington: the time to act on health reform is now, and states are not going to sit on the sidelines and watch. We won't settle for halfway measures and we won't stand for delay. We need a public health insurance option to make sure working families and small businesses are free to choose the best health care available at a price they can afford. And we need it now.”

The endorsement of the public option signals a growing consensus from state legislators in support of one of President Obama's key reform priorities at a time of escalating debate on Capitol Hill. Last month, a bipartisan group of over 700 state legislators from 48 states organized by the Progressive States Network delivered a letter to President Obama and Congress throwing their weight behind the public option. In the month since, over 100 legislators from all 50 states have added their signatures to the letter.

According to Maine State Representative Sharon Treat (D, Hallowell), who co-authored the amendment and helped circulate the letter, the growing consensus behind the public option has arisen out of acute economic necessity. “Health care expenditures are rising at twice the rate of inflation, which isn’t sustainable for either state budgets or our economy as a whole. Lobbyists in Washington D.C. may think we need to wait, but for the average working family or small business owner in my home state, it's pretty clear that we need to act and we need to act now.”

In addition to Hatch and Treat, the amendment was co-authored by Washington State Senator Karen Keiser (D, Kent) and New Hampshire State Representative Cindy Rosenwald (D, Nashua). The following states —including the District of Columbia and the territory of Puerto Rico — voted for the ammendment: AL, AZ, AR, CO, CT, DE, DC, IA, FL, HI, IL, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, PA, PR, RI, VA, VI, WA, WI. The following voted against it: GA, SC, KS, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, and WY, while the following three abstained: AK, WV, TN.

For a copy of NCSL's full recommendation see: http://progressivestates.org/ncsl09/healthpolicyrecommendations.pdf. For the letter from Progressive States Network, see: http://progressivestates.org/statefedhealth. Interviews with the amendments authors can be arranged through PSN's Austin Guest or by contacting them directly at the following addresses:

Sen. Jack Hatch: (413) 298-3499, (515) 208-5414, jack@hatchdevelopment.com
Rep. Sharon Treat: (207) 242-8558, satreat@earthlink.net
Sen. Karen Keiser: (206) 399-0801, karenkeiser@comcast.net
Rep. Cindy Rosenwald: (603) 566-0586, cindy.rosenwald@leg.state.nh.us

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Progressive States Network is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the work of progressive state legislators around the country and to the passage of state legislation that delivers on issues the issues that matter to working families: strong wage standards and workplace freedom, balancing work and family responsibilities, health care for all, smart growth and clean energy, tax and budget reform, clean and fair elections, and technology investments to bridge the digital divide.