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Healthcare Reform Is Too Important to Fail

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By now many of us are all too familiar with the troubling facts informing our need to take action on healthcare reform: forty-six million Americans lack health insurance and tens of millions more are underinsured and at risk of financial ruin; family budgets are squeezed and businesses are less able to compete globally because of skyrocketing healthcare costs; and despite our world class hospitals, our healthcare system still fails to prevent millions of avoidable, deadly heart attacks and strokes.

The time to act is now. But still, the "who" and "how" of health reform is up in the air. That is why we heartily support President Obama's plan to address healthcare reform immediately and to evaluate any reform proposal against eight commonsense, nonpartisan principles: protecting families' financial health, making health care coverage affordable, aiming for universal coverage, providing portability of coverage, guaranteeing choice, investing in prevention and wellness, improving patient safety and quality of care, and maintaining long-term fiscal sustainability. These are principles that everyone -- Democrats, Republicans, Independents, mayors, business and labor -- can and should rally around.

We need everyone's participation and everyone's good ideas if we are to reform the fragmented system we have today. In our respective roles as Mayor and leader of the nation's largest union of nurses, doctors and healthcare workers, we have worked tirelessly to improve the health care of our city residents and fellow New Yorkers. New York City has supported our award-winning public hospital system which serves more than 450,000 uninsured patients; invested in the nation's largest primary care electronic health record network linking more than 1,100 doctors with real-time, prevention-focused electronic health records; connected thousands of residents with public health insurance and small businesses with affordable coverage for workers; and engaged in innovative public health campaigns to reduce smoking and promote wellness. In New York City as well as in major cities around the country, SEIU healthcare workers have dedicated themselves to expanding healthcare coverage and improving the quality of care in hospitals, clinics and community health centers.

We know these efforts are making a real difference in the lives of New Yorkers and working families everywhere. But in this time of economic emergency, our country needs and deserves more than partial solutions that are fraying under the weight of state and local budget crises. Our families, our communities, and our businesses need Washington's committed leadership to fix our broken healthcare system.

We see the momentum growing. With each passing week, the Obama administration and key members of Congress have begun to build the foundation for major healthcare reform legislation. In a little over sixty days, they have expanded SCHIP coverage to more children, dedicated new funding to improve healthcare technology and invest in our healthcare workforce to aid America's economic recovery, and approved a budget that establishes a critical down payment on real healthcare reform.

And yet, some of the hardest work is still to come, and our challenge is to keep Congress focused on achieving a real and comprehensive solution -- and not to walk away when the going gets tough. In this time of crisis, we have to be willing to try new things and keep focused on our goals to make health care more affordable, effective and accessible.

In the past few months, we've heard a lot about how government has to step in when a company is 'too big to fail.' Well, this push for healthcare reform is too important to fail. It's too important to our cities. It's too important to our nation. It's a challenge we can't turn from -- and it's an opportunity we must seize.

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