The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Toby Chaudhuri or Jennifer Ettinger at 202-587-1639

Robert Reich Challenges Senate Democrats to Fight for Public Health Insurance Option to Control Costs

New Report Shows Health Care and Insurance Premiums Increasingly Unaffordable, Forcing Millions To Go Without Needed Care


Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich today urged Senate Finance Committee Democrats to condemn false "bipartisanship" standing in the way of President Obama's
overhaul to the nation's health care system. Reich said Democrats must
support a public health insurance option because it's the best way to
control costs, citing evidence in a new report released today by the Health Care for America Now coalition.

With health care costs skyrocketing, the
report shows that the number of Americans in families with problems
paying medical bills climbed to 57 million, or one in five, up from one
in seven in 2003. Millions of these people have health insurance but are forced to go without essential care. Further, the lack of health insurance coverage causes 22,000 deaths each year in the U.S.

time to forget the Republicans and to insist on a real public health
insurance option," said Reich. "The public health insurance option is
the linchpin of quality, affordable health care for all. And it can
pass with a majority vote, which is possible if we give up on trying to
persuade a handful of Republicans to cross over."

made the remarks today on a conference call with reporters organized by
the Campaign for America's Future. Health care expert Jacob Hacker
joined Reich on the call, previewing his testimony before the House
Education and Labor Committee, one of the three key committees writing
health reform legislation.

public health insurance option -- combined with drug-price competition
and a requirement that businesses insure employees or contribute to the
cost of their coverage - is the best way to reduce the overall cost of
health reform and make coverage more affordable," said Hacker.

Hacker also highlighted a series of public opinion polls conducted this month by the Kaiser Foundation, Employee Benefit Research Institute, NBC/Wall Street Journal and CBS/New York Times
that shows broad public support for a public health insurance option.
About three-quarters of people polled favor creating a public option to
compete with private health insurance plans.

said that the cost of health care reform proposals would drop
substantially if they included the public insurance option. He also
explained why state or regional health insurance cooperatives will not
control costs.

Campaign for America's Future co-director Roger Hickey
joined Reich and Hacker on the call. Hickey emphasized the Health Care
for America Now report that shows that the nation is suffering from a
"growing crisis of health care unaffordability," underscoring the need
for real reforms. The report documents how health insurance premiums
and out-of-pocket costs are increasing much faster than wages, ranking
the 50 states by the impact of these trends.

are paying more and more for health insurance -- and getting less and
less coverage for themselves and their families," said Hickey.
"Skyrocketing premiums and out-of-pocket costs are threatening our
standard of living and hurting our competitiveness around the world."

HCAN report shows that the cost of health insurance has risen 120
percent while wages grew only 29 percent from 1999 to 2007. Health
insurance premiums have risen so high that experts forecast 52 million
Americans will be uninsured next year.

have seen their health insurance copayments and deductibles climb by 40
percent since 2004. The value of employer-based health benefits
declined, forcing families to spend more of their own money on care. At
the same time, health insurers resorted to saving money by limiting
benefits, causing 45 percent of Americans to say they are "very"
worried about having to spend more on health insurance premiums and
medical costs.

Thursday, these and other health care concerns will draw thousands of
people from across the country to the nation's capital for a large
rally and day-long lobbying activities aimed at achieving quality,
affordable health care this year for everyone in America. The rally
will be held at 11:30 a.m. in Upper Senate Park.

rally and lobbying activities are part of HCAN's national grassroots
campaign for health care reform. Its principles for reform, which are
backed by President Obama and more than 190 members of Congress,
include the creation of a strong public health insurance option to give
people the choice on whether to keep their current private insurance
plan or join a new public health insurance plan that would serve as a
guaranteed backup for providing quality, affordable health care no
matter what.

The Campaign for America's Future is the strategy center for the progressive movement. Our goal is to forge the enduring progressive majority needed to realize the America of shared prosperity and equal opportunity that our country was meant to be.