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Lee, Woolsey Push for Public Option

Patrick O'Connor

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), in the background, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in this Capitol Hill file photo. Both Congresswomen have vowed to fight back against the Senate version of healthcare reform that was passed today. (WDCpix)

On the eve of a historic health care vote in the Senate, liberal
Democrats in the House have launched a full-throated defense of the
public option — a sign of battles to come when party leaders try to
meld the two bills.

“Now that the Senate is poised to pass its version of a health care
reform bill, it is time to turn to reconciling it with the House
legislation," California Reps. Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey said in a
joint statement Wednesday. “For Congress to achieve true health care
reform we must have a meaningful conference process that integrates
both bills into the best possible piece of legislation for the American

Their top priorities:

"A public option — If the bill requires people to buy health insurance,
there must be a public option to bring down costs by providing
lower-cost competition to private insurers and choice to consumers."

"Affordability protections — The legislation must protect lower and
middle-income individuals by ensuring that subsidies make coverage
affordable and that Medicaid patients have access to primary care

"Tighter market regulations — New regulations must keep premiums
reasonable and end abusive practices. Insurance companies should no
longer be exempt from anti-trust laws and any premium increases must be
reviewed before they take effect."

“Employer mandates — If individuals are required to buy insurance, employers should be required to provide it.

“Tax surcharges — Health care reform should be financed by tax
surcharges on the wealthy not excise taxes on health insurance plans
offered to many workers and union members.

They're not as critical of the Senate package as New York Rep. Louise Slaughter;
Lee and Woolsey, who serve as chairwomen of the Congressional Black
Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus, respectively, even go out
of their way to thank the Senate majority leader and Sens. Roland
Burris (D-Ill.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) for adding a provision on health
care disparities and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for helping to secure
$10 billion for community health centers.

But it's clear that they're not going to roll over, as some senators
have suggested they should. “We look forward to working with the House
and Senate leadership to ensure that the final legislation provides
affordable and comprehensive health care to people who need it.”

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