On a cold day almost a year ago, many of us stood beside U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, then a U.S. legislative candidate, as he pledged to work with President Obama and his Congressional colleagues to fight for quality, affordable health care in 2010. Murphy eloquently said that "It's shameful that in the richest country in the world that we can't provide basic health care for everyone in our community." We worked hard to elect him last year primarily because of this commitment.
Yet, Congressman Murphy deeply disappointed us by voting against the House health care reform bill in November. Scott's vote was contrary to the interests of his constituents, including moderate income people struggling to pay for health care, people with coverage who are driven into bankruptcy due to high out-of-pocket costs, chronically ill people who can't get health insurance because of outrageous "pre-existing" coverage limitations, and small businesses that want to offer their employees coverage but can't due to rising health care costs.
According to House staff, the bill will allow 15,500 small businesses in the 20th Congressional District to provide insurance through tax credits, protect up to 1,200 families from bankruptcy and provide coverage to 35,000 uninsured residents. Roughly 8,000 area seniors with Medicare Part D who now have to pay their full drug costs would have a significant portion of these costs covered immediately. And coverage would improve for hundreds of thousands with employer-based coverage.
House and Senate leaders are working on a final bill with the President. Yes, the legislation can be improved. For example, the subsidies should be increased so that more people will be able to afford to purchase health insurance, and the proposed tax on health care plans should be eliminated.
But, on balance, the bill will represent a major milestone in the nation's march to provide quality affordable coverage to every American. Thirty million more will be covered, and the rest of us will be protected from outrageous insurer practices like "pre-existing" coverage limitations and lifetime caps on benefits. With health care costs expected to increase from $2.3 to 4.3 trillion dollars by 2017, we simply can't let this chance at reform slip away for another generation.
On Jan. 11, Citizen Action launched a new website, http://standupscott.org with a petition for New Yorkers who supported Rep. Murphy during his campaign to ask him to vote for health care reform when Congress takes its final vote. Let's hope that Congressman Murphy stands with the interests of his constituents next time.
(Al Ormsby, a Saratoga Springs resident, is a board member of the Capital District chapter of Citizen Action of New York, a statewide membership organization that advocates for social, racial, economic and environmental justice (www.citizenactionny.org). Bob Cohen, a Rensselaer County resident, is Citizen Action's policy director.)