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New Momentum to Fix Health Care in America

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Some people were surprised to learn today that I participated in a news conference with the CEOs of several major corporations - including Wal-Mart, with whom our union has major differences. We announced the formation of Better Health Care Together, a new partnership committed to building the momentum and political will we need to bring health care to every man, woman and child in America by 2012.

To some, it may seem like I took a risk, but it's nothing compared to risks millions of people in our country are forced to take everyday because of our broken health care system.

Three years ago I led a march for quality affordable health care across the Golden Gate Bridge with 10,000 concerned Americans, including a woman named Lisa Scott.

Lisa is a single mom. She worked every day of her life. Her 16 year old daughter Janelle was having respiratory problems, and the doctor sent her for an x-ray. But because Lisa still owed several hundred dollars from a previous illness, the x-ray was postponed and the doctor said they would just monitor her progress. Three days later Janelle died. She died in the richest country on earth, even though her mom worked every day. She died simply because she was too poor to afford health care.

This is not the America any of us want.

So I stood today with corporate CEOs, civic leaders, and another union for Lisa, and because I love this country. I am ready to do anything in my power to find real solutions to make quality, affordable, health care available to everyone.

And I stood up for America's and our children's future. Health care is no longer just a moral crisis, it's an economic crisis as well. Our country is living through the most profound, most significant and most transformative economic revolution in human history. This is not our fathers and grandfathers economy.

More people went to work today in retail than manufacturing. Our economy is no longer national but international. And the truth is, we are not going to drive into the future looking in the rear view mirror. We need new 21st century ideas and partnerships if America is going to thrive in today's global economy.

It is time to admit that the employer-based health care system is dead, a relic of the industrial economy. America cannot compete in the new global economy when we are the only industrialized nation on earth that puts the price of healthcare on the cost of our products.

That is a major drag on American business competitiveness and job creation. American business by 2008 will pay more for health care than they will make in profits. That is untenable.

But the good news is that the solution is no longer a matter of policy, but of politics and leadership. Today the winds of change are blowing. Unlike 1993, when health care reform failed, forces from every corner of America are coming together and looking for answers.

Governors of both political parties are showing leadership, as are presidential candidates, the insurance industry, the Business Roundtable and AARP.

The idea that it is time, in fact it is long overdue, for America to come together and ensure that everyone has quality, affordable health care by 2012 has gained wide acceptance everywhere. Everywhere, that is, but Washington, D.C.

And that's why I chose to join today with several major corporations, some of whom I don't always agree with, and some of whom I have been strongly critical, and will continue to be if their practices do not change. But I believe this partnership of unlikely allies sends a powerful message and offers even greater hope that we can finally stop talking about health care and do something about it.

We can't keep tinkering, hoping that incremental change will fix our broken health care system. We need fundamental change, meaning new thinking, leadership, new partnerships, and some risk taking, and compromising.

That's what we all owe our country. And what united us today at the announcement is our shared belief that it will be a far greater America when we finally get health care for all.

Team USA needs new a health care plan if we are going to compete in a global economy, and if we are going to help make the dreams of our children come true.

America's future is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice.

Founding members of Better Health Care Together are: AT&T, the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy, the Center for American Progress, the Committee for Economic Development, the Communications Workers of America, Intel, Kelly Services, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Wal-Mart.