BK Dems react to Obama speech

The Brooklyn Paper
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Preaching to the choir.

For the most part, that’s how Brooklyn’s lawmakers in Washington reacted to President Obama’s speech before both houses of Congress on finding a way to give health insurance to all Americans.

Brooklyn’s delegation was a little short on clear ideas on how to cover the estimated 47 million Americans who lack health insurance without breaking the bank.

“President Obama successfully refocused the debate on improving coverage for those who have health insurance and providing quality, affordable health care to every single American,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “I continue to support a robust public option that can compete with private health insurance and drive down health care costs for everyone.Comprehensive reform should also focus on prevention as opposed to emergency room care and strengthen Medicare for seniors.”

Sen. Charles Schumer said Obama spoke clearly, directly and unflinchingly to the average middle-class American, and showed them ‘here is why this plan is good for you.’

“For months there have been lies and exaggerations, and this is probably the first time the average family has heard the simple facts about why America needs health care reform,” said Schumer.

When pressed on how this could be done without increasing the federal deficit, Schumer spokesperson Julie Halpin said there isn’t a bill yet so there are no details on how this reform would work.

Rep. Michael E. McMahon said while Obama laid out a broad platform for reforming health care, he remains puzzled on how to do it.

“While I found President Obama’s speech moving, I am still concerned about how we will pay for the overhaul of our health care system - a detail which was not addressed in his speech,” said McMahon. “As we move forward with this debate, I hope Democrats and Republicans can put the American people first and come together to work out the specifics of the proposed plan.”

Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez said something needs to be done because rising health insurance costs are hurting families and burdening many small businesses that are trying to do right by their employees.

“Too many Americans, including almost one in three Hispanics, lack health insurance coverage. These challenges are not going away and they demand action,” she said.

Rep. Edolphus Towns said health care reform is needed now and recited several ways on how it affects Brooklynites.

“In Kings County alone, there are 300,000 uninsured residents who have grappled with heart-wrenching decisions like, ‘Do I purchase food for my family, or do I pay health care premiums?’

No one in this great country should ever be forced to make such a decision,” he said.

Towns also continued to champion the current House bill that favors a single-payer system over a public option system where the government would compete with private insurance companies.

“Through this comprehensive [House] plan, we can focus on preventive medicine; guarantee doctor preference; create a mechanism for people to keep their insurance, regardless of unemployment or job changes; and, remove combative obstacles to coverage,” said Towns.

Rep. Anthony Weiner echoed Towns in supporting the House proposal.

“The President made a great argument for a public option. I’m glad he did. Without a muscular public option the plan will not reduce costs,” said Weiner. “I want a single-player plan. I am prepared to accept a public option, but it isn’t in the final package, it will be a retreat from competition and savings.”

Rep. Yvette Clarke, while not floating any proposals, stated that escalating costs and people without health insurance mandate that now is the time to craft some kind of reform.

“The growing cost of health care is one of the biggest drags on our economy. In 2006, our economy lost as much as $200 billion because of the poor health and shorter lifespan of the uninsured. Without any change, by 2018, health care spending will rise to $4.4 trillion %u2013 more than one-fifth of the economy. It is clear that our nation can no longer accept the status quo. We need comprehensive health care reform if America is to successfully move forward into the 21st century,” she said.

Ilan Kayatsky, spokesperson for Rep. Jerrold Nadler, said the congressmember supports a single-payer system, but in the current political climate a public option is the most important achievable alternative.

“He is a strong supporter of the public option, which will keep insurance premiums down, maintain competition in the marketplace and, as the President has said, keep insurance companies honest,” said Kayatsky.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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