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Senate Ready to Debate Health Insurance Reform

NEA says reform cannot be financed by taxing middle class workers

On Saturday night, the United States Senate voted along party lines to bring the Protection and and Affordablity Act, its version of comprehensive health insurance reform, to the floor for debate. The 60-39 vote blocked a Republican filibuster, clearing the way for debate to begin right after Thanksgiving. Senate Democrats hope to vote on the bill by Christmas. The House of Representatives passed its version two weeks ago.

Although the Senate and House bill are in many ways similar, key differences over two controversial issues will have to be ironed out before a final bill can be approved and presented to President Obama for signature.

Both bills contain a public health insurance option, although the Senate version allows states to opt out. On financing, the House relies mainly on a surtax on upper-income earners; the Senate imposes a 40 percent excise tax on the insurance plans of American workers.

NEA fully supports the House bill and many of the provisions in the Senate bill, but, like other unions, believes taxing health benefits is the wrong way to pay for health reform.

“We are excited that the Senate is moving forward,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, “but we cannot build this crucial reform effort on the backs of working families.”

With so much worth supporting in the bill – an end to insurance company abuses, the inclusion of a public option – Van Roekel urges the Senate to revisit the financing issue.

“We look forward to a healthy debate in the coming weeks, and strongly urge the Senate to consider alternative ways to finance comprehensive health care reform.”

Health Care for America Now!

NEA is a member of Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a national grassroots campaign of more than 850 organizations dedicated to winning quality, affordable health care. Find out more about HCAN here.

NEA is also a member of the National Coalition on Health Care.