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Health care reform moves ahead

Committees pass Affordable Health Choice Act

Posted: July 17, 2009 10:12 p.m.
Updated: July 18, 2009 8:00 a.m.
Congress took two steps toward health care reform Friday as two House committees passed the Affordable Health Choices Act.

The act is designed to expand health care coverage by allowing the uninsured access to federally funded health care.

The House Education and Labor Committee, along with the House Ways and Means Committee, passed the bill after an all-night session that ran 20 hours.

Republicans sought unsuccessfully in both committees to strip out key portions of the bill, including a new tax on the wealthy and a requirement for the government to sell insurance in competition with private companies.

Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, who serves on the Education and Labor Committee, was quick to criticize the legislation that passed his committee by a 26-22 margin.

He ripped into what he called a liberal plan that calls for the appointment of a health choice commissioner.

"This new health choice commissioner position proposed by House Democrats basically allows for a czar to wield power over all Americans' health care plans," McKeon said.

McKeon said the Democratic option is ill conceived and pushed a Republican alternative.

"Allowing small businesses to band together through associations and purchase quality health care for workers and their families at a lower cost empowers them to make decisions based on what‘s best for them and their employees," he said.

"Small Business Health Plans would increase small businesses' bargaining power with health care providers, give them freedom from costly state-mandated benefit packages, and lower their health care costs by as much as 30 percent - benefits that large corporations and unions already enjoy because of their larger economies of scale."

One Santa Clarita Valley Democrat blasted McKeon for what he characterized as partisan politics.

"Today our member of Congress voted to maintain the Howard McKeon-emergency room system of health care," local Democratic activist Bruce McFarland said.

"Instead of standing with local families and small businesses to expand access to quality health care to all Americans - including many Santa Claritans - McKeon showed he'd rather stand with the HMOs and maintain the status quo."

The House Energy and Commerce Committee must approve the Affordable Health Choices Act before the bill is vote on by the full House.


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