Historic health care reform legislation was set for a mid-day Sunday showdown vote in the House of Representatives. The package that would extend coverage to 32 million Americans would actually reduce the budget deficit, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The measure also includes a provision by Senator Bernie Sanders to dramatically expand community health centers that now provide primary care for 20 million Americans. Sanders worked with Senator Patrick Leahy on a provision for Vermont and other states that already have expanded Medicaid coverage. Also in the Senate, a bill to regulate Wall Street was put forward by the Senate Banking Committee chairman. It needs some work, Sanders said.
Health Care - Overview By a simple up-or-down vote, the Senate in the coming week could complete action on a historic health care reform bill that will reduce the deficit by $138 billion in the first decade, expand affordable coverage to 32 million Americans, close a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage, expand Medicaid programs, and attack waste, fraud and abuse. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Thursday projected that the health care reform legislation will reduce the deficit by $138 billion in the first decade, and save $1.3 trillion in the second decade
Health Care - Public Option Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday told Senators Sanders and Jeff Merkley that he would work to ensure a Senate vote "in the coming months" on a health insurance public option. In a letter, the majority leader said: "I remain committed to pursuing the public option. . . As we have discussed, I will work to ensure that we are able to vote on the pubic option in the coming months." Sanders said, "I very much appreciate Majority Leader Reid's continuing support for a public option and I am grateful for his commitment to bring legislation before the full Senate within the next several months. It's imperative that we have a vote on this issue and I'm glad that is going to happen. We need to add the public option to health care reform because the American people must have the right to choose a Medicare-type public option as opposed to just private insurance company plans. Further, a public option will provide much needed competition to the insurance industry and help us hold down skyrocketing premiums. It is my judgment that a majority of members in the House and Senate would support a public option when it comes up for a vote."
Health Care - Medicaid A package of refinements to the health care bill unveiled on Thursday included a provision for states like Vermont, which already have expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income people. This provision prevents those states from being penalized for doing the right thing. Sanders said, "I am pleased that in these very difficult economic times we have managed to prevent the state of Vermont and other forward-thinking states from being discriminated against because we did the right thing in providing health coverage for more low-income people. States that innovate and have addressed the health care crisis should be respected and not penalized." The Medicaid solution is part of the effort to expand coverage to uninsured Americans, health reform proposals in the House and the Senate included expansions of the Medicaid program. The Medicaid expansion will insure more low-income Americans. Since Vermont already expanding its Medicaid coverage, early formulas would have unintentionally disadvantaged Vermont for not having any "newly eligible" Medicaid enrollees.
Financial Reform Sanders called Senate legislation unveiled on Monday to rewrite rules governing financial institutions a step forward, but said "much more needs to be done to regulate Wall Street to prevent another severe financial crisis from happening again." Sanders said he would propose amendments to the financial overhaul legislation to limit credit card interest rates and discourage Fed secrecy. He also will work with colleagues to strengthen consumer protections, curb unbridled market speculation and break up "too big to fail" banks. To read more, click here.