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RELEASE: Body representing all U.S. state legislatures moves to endorse public option

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 21, 2009
CONTACT: Austin Guest, aguest@progressivestates.org, 831-917-6400 (cl)

BODY REPRESENTING ALL U.S. STATE LEGISLATURES MOVES TO ENDORSE PUBLIC HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION

Committee's policy recommendation signals growing state-level consensus behind one of Obama's top reform priorities

PHILADELPHIA — This Tuesday, the hotly contested public health insurance option won endorsement from the body representing every state legislature in the country. Citing the need for immediate action to stem the rising costs of health care, three quarters of the states represented on the the National Conference of State Legislatures' Standing Committee on Health voted to include an amendment calling for a public health insurance option in the committee's policy recommendations for federal health care reform. On Thursday, the recommendation will come up for a vote before the full body of NCSL, whose membership includes over 7,500 state legislators across the country.

According to Iowa State Senator Jack Hatch, who introduced the amendment, “We are coming together this week to send a very clear message: 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 keep the insurance industry honest and make sure working families and small businesses are free to chose the best health care available at a price they can afford.”

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 have added their signatures to the letter.

According to Maine State Representative Sharon Treat, who helped author the amendment along with Sen. Hatch, Sen. Karen Keiser (WA), and Rep. Cindy Rosenwald (NH), 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 the state budget 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.”

According to Nathan Newman, Executive Director of Progressive States Network, a national organization that supports the public option and drafted and circulated the letter signed by 800 legislators in support of it, the growing consensus among state legislators comes at a welcome time. “For too long states have gone it alone on health care reform while Washington failed to act. Now, hundreds of state leaders from across the country are demonstrating an unprecedented commitment to work with Washington to bring quality affordable health care to the whole country. We hope Washington is as ready as they are to act.”

In addition to the public option, the amendment also recommended a series of policy proposals from the PSN letter, including robust cost containment programs, assistance in expanding Medicaid programs, and freedom for states to set benefit requirements and other regulatory standards that exceed federal minimums.

To see a full draft of the Standing committee on Health's Policy recommendations see: http://progressivestates.org/ncsl09/healthpolicyrecommendations.pdf. To see the letter from Progressive States Network, see http://progressivestates.org/statefedhealth.

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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.