AFT Looks Forward to Strengthened Final Healthcare Bill

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Following the U.S. Senate's Dec. 24 passage of a healthcare reform bill, both chambers of Congress now have an opportunity to craft a historic piece of legislation that insures the uninsured and makes high-quality health care affordable to all Americans, AFT president Randi Weingarten says.

"The goal of healthcare reform has always been affordable, quality health care for all: access to coverage without affordability is no reform at all," Weingarten says. "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's commitment—and that of Sens. Charles E. Schumer, Christopher Dodd and Tom Harkin—enabled the Senate and the nation to reach this important milestone despite Republican efforts to thwart any action at all. Some 30 million uninsured Americans would gain health coverage under the Senate bill.

"From the outset of the healthcare debate, the AFT has supported reform proposals such as the House bill's robust public plan, which would provide much-needed competition with private insurers. We encourage the House-Senate conferees to find a way to include real competition that will help control costs and ensure affordability.

"In that vein, AFT members are disappointed that the Senate legislation includes a tax on some employer-provided plans. Although cast by some as a tax on 'Cadillac plans,' the operational effect of this charge would be far from that characterization. If this becomes a part of the final bill, it will come at the expense of increasing workers' costs as employers either cut benefits to avoid the steep 40 percent excise tax or pass the tax on to workers in the form of higher premiums.

"We remain committed to working with the White House and Congress during the conference process to ensure the final bill includes provisions that will strengthen it and improve its chances of achieving the true reform that Americans want and need." [AFT press release]

December 24, 2009