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Fast Track for Obama Health Care Reform

April 14, 2009

New York — New York's newest U.S. Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, says a simple majority vote should be sufficient to enact President Obama's healthcare reform plan - and she predicts that vote will be taken in Congress this year.

During this week's congressional recess, Democrat Gillibrand met with leaders of more than 20 advocacy groups, all of which are part of the Health Care for America Now! coalition. She told them Obama must fix the nation's healthcare system if he wants to turn the economy around, and stressed the importance of giving New Yorkers a say in selecting their insurance providers.

"It's very important that folks have a choice; that they can choose their current health insurer, or that they can choose something - like a Medicare - that they can buy into, at a percentage of their income that's affordable."

Healthcare costs not covered by insurance rank as the most common reason New Yorkers file for bankruptcy, according to Kinda Serafi, an attorney and health policy consultant for the Children's Defense Fund. To Serafi, this underscores the need for prompt congressional action.

"The costs of private insurance has skyrocketed while wages have not increased. So, it's completely unaffordable. It's out of reach for working families, and we know that some employers aren't offering health coverage because times are lean."

In New York State, Serafi says, 2.5 million people are without health insurance, and many more are underinsured. In her view, reforms that guarantee universal access to comprehensive health coverage will be necessary to break the cycle.

Sen. Gillibrand suggests 5 percent of annual income would be a reasonable cost for healthcare coverage for most New Yorkers, and that 2 percent should be the cutoff for low-income families. Opponents say such proposals move the country toward a system of socialized medicine, and they argue against increased government intervention, especially in the current economic downturn.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY