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AFSCME: Tell Congress Public Health Care Option is Critical

June 25, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - As the debate in Congress heats up over health care reform, Floridians are joining people from across the nation in rallying in Washington D.C. today. Doug Martin, legislative and communications director for Florida AFSCME Council 79, is among those at the event.

Even though most of his union members are insured, Martin says he is fighting for the nearly 2 million Floridians who have no medical insurance and/or no access to health care. A public insurance option is critical to their future care, he stresses.

"When health care reform is done, we want affordable health care insurance. We want affordable health care for everyone. Ultimately, unless there is a strong public plan, we're not going to have health care reform."

Martin says it is generally agreed that the current system is broken and risks the lives of millions of uninsured. He says a public option plan, similar to Medicaid, makes financial sense because its estimated overhead is six percent, compared to the 20 percent overhead for private insurance coverage and HMOs. Still, opponents to reform say the nation cannot afford to insure everyone, and some private insurance companies have said a public option could drive them out of business.

Competition from a public plan will force private insurers to reduce customers' out-of-pocket expenses, which have grown to more than $3,500 a year, according to the Secretary of Health, Martin says.

"Having the competition of a public plan will cause insurers to lower their costs and to provide better service."

Martin says everyone has a right to quality health care, regardless of their employment, their health or their income.

"All Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care. This should not be contingent upon where you work; you should, by virtue of being an American, be able to get the health care thatyou need."

More information about the rally is available at www.healthcareforamericanow.org.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL