In the Spotlight: Health Reform Takes Shape in Congress

We all know the stakes in this health reform debate: rising premiums that are crippling families and small businesses; insurance companies dropping patients because of a pre-existing condition and misplaced incentives aimed at treating people once they get sick, rather than keeping them well in the first place. This system is broken, it’s unfair and it’s about to change.

The Senate is now considering a strong proposal that will meet President Obama’s requirement that it not add a dime to the deficit.

At long last, the American people can now focus on the essential elements of health reform – all of which enjoy strong popular support.

Our reform proposal will:

  • Extend insurance coverage to most Americans, while providing subsidies for those who can’t afford it.
  • It will ban health insurance company abuses, such as denying coverage for preexisting conditions, and dropping policy-holders who get sick.
  • It will include a strong public option – something that, for the first time, will ensure competition and give consumers a real choice.
  • And something I have strongly championed, the bill includes a sharp new emphasis on wellness and prevention. It will begin to transform our current sick care system into a genuine health care system – one focused on keeping people healthy and out of the hospital in the first place.

At this point, the big challenge is to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate. The Republicans have made it clear that they intend to do everything they can to delay, filibuster, and kill health reform. This means that we will need 60 votes to bring the bill to the floor and, eventually, to end debate and get an up-or-down vote.

But I remain very confident that we will secure those 60 votes.

As this long health reform debate has made clear to everybody, the current system is dysfunctional and wasteful. People know that we need reform. And the more they learn about the key elements of this bill – including a crackdown on health insurance company abuses – the more support it will gain.

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