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State legislators from across nation sign letter to Obama, Congress urging health care reform within the year

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 13, 2009
CONTACT: Austin Guest, aguest@progressivestates.org, 212.680.3116 x 110

STATE LAWMAKERS FROM ACROSS NATION SIGN LETTER TO OBAMA, CONGRESS URGING HEALTH CARE REFORM WITHIN THE YEAR

Leaders urge choice of public plan, offer collaboration in devising and implementing new programs

NEW YORK — Today, the Progressive States Network (PSN) began publicly circulating an open letter from state legislators to President Obama and Congress urging them to pass comprehensive health care reform within the year. The letter has already been signed by over 100 legislators from 27 states, including 19 health care committee chairpersons, and is gathering more signatures daily.

The letter maintains that “the private sector alone has proven incapable of creating a high-quality, fair, and accountable health care system that works for all families,” and that our “disjointed health care system has formed a choke-hold on our economy.” The letter calls for a “robust federal-state collaboration” to deliver Americans “the choice of a public health insurance plan that is available to businesses, individuals, and families.”

In releasing the letter, PSN Interim Executive Director Nathan Newman cited state legislators' experience implementing comprehensive coverage plans as a strong argument for including them in the discussion around national reform. Thirty states currently offer the choice of a public insurance plan to their public employees. In recent years, legislative chambers in Wisconsin and Connecticut passed bills to open public insurance plans to the private sector and are renewing efforts in 2009. Similar measures have been introduced this year in Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

“State lawmakers have already demonstrated the policy background and political savvy to enact reform in a broad range of political climates,” said Newman. “With hopes for federal health care reform languishing on Capitol Hill for the last few decades, it's been progressive state leaders who have worked to expand public programs like SCHIP, Medicaid, and public employee insurance pools to bring desperately needed coverage to their constituencies. If we're going to succeed in bringing quality affordable health care to all Americans, then state lawmakers must have a place at the table.”

In addition to the choice of a public insurance plan, the letter calls for a comprehensive reform package that includes expanded support for Medicaid; cost containment measures; affordability protections; preservation of patients' ability to choose their doctor; shared responsibility among employers, individuals, and government for financing health care; and the elimination of racial, ethnic, gender, and rural disparities in health care coverage.

The letter, which is being circulated for additional signatures, will be delivered by a delegation of state legislators to the President Obama and Congress during a visit to Washington D.C. this June. The delegation will be headed by Connecticut House Speaker Christopher Donnovan, Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach, Washington State Senator Karen Keiser, and Maine State Representative Sharon Treat. To read the full text of the letter, go to 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.