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Miles J. Zaremski Headshot

No August Recess for Congress

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What is so compelling about Members of Congress being able to go home for the entire month of August -- particularly when they have before them the most compelling and momentous piece of legislation confronting them -- health care reform? Look at state legislatures which are called back into a summer session to pass a state budget? Well, federal legislators, fixing our broken down health care delivery system is as critical as fixing a state budget. Elizabeth Edwards calls our present system "immoral"; I would call it a disgrace for America. President Obama said in his news conference on July 22 that 14,000 Americans a day are losing health care insurance coverage. If my math is right, August has 31 days, so during the time our elected officials want to vacation from their day jobs, 434,000 more Americans will lose coverage!

If we wait another ten months as Michael Steele, chair of the RNC, said recently, that would "only" mean over four million more folks will be without coverage. So, why many Republicans are questioning the president for rushing health care reform is puzzling. The proper inquiry is, why the rush to take off a whole month when you were elected to do the country's business on a full time basis -- and health care is as pressing a matter as has come before you all this session. So, why don't you all just stay put in Washington during August, pass health care reform legislation in August, and then let a conference committee meet after Labor Day to mesh the House and Senate versions? What is so sacrosanct about those in the House and in the Senate taking an entire month off, and, particularly, now?

As well, and as Obama points out, this crisis is affecting all of us, even those with adequate insurance coverage. After all, all Americans are paying for our present system in terms of higher premiums annually, and paying for those millions who have no insurance but who are treated nonetheless for free at our nation's health care facilities.

Those opposing real change as proposed, for example, in HR 3200 (the House measure to reform health care) throw out words such as socialized medicine, a public plan as an option means millions of Americans will lose insurance coverage, and that if you lose a job, out goes your private insurance. To this, I say, balderdash! Read the language in the bill. If opponents of health care reform can't debate it on its merits, all that is left is fear mongering, and that is what those in our country are becoming because of it -- fearful -- not due to the facts, but due to the made-up stories they hear from politicians. Americans must realize that reform as presented includes significant benefits for every single citizen -- like keeping health care coverage that you have and like; like not being barred from coverage due to a pre-existing condition; and like maintaining coverage even after losing a job.

Another tactic used by opponents is the cost of reform. The president said once more during his press conference that reform must pay for itself. Let me repeat: reform must pay for itself. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just scored HR 3200, and found it to be deficit neutral over a 10 year budget window. It even produces a $6 billion surplus! CBO also estimates that there will be more than $550 billion in gross Medicare and Medicaid savings. With net Medicare and Medicaid savings of $465 billion, coupled with the $583 billion revenue package reported recently by the House Committee on Ways and Means, the $1.042 trillion cost of reform in order to provide 97% of Americans with affordable coverage will be met.

At the end of the day, opponents of health care reform don't care about Americans obtaining quality care at affordable prices; all they care about is whether they will have a job come the next cycle in which they have to run for office; all they care about is defeating Obama as a politician; and all they care about is defeating the Democratic party. It is a sad day indeed If Americans cannot see through what opponents are trying to do here. Health care is a right for all, and politicians should not be playing "russian roulette" with this right -- with the lives, well-being, and health of all Americans hanging in the balance.

While much has been accomplished to legislate reforming health care, much yet remains to do. For this reason, all you in Congress tell your spouses, families and significant others that you won't be with them next month; there's a very pressing matter that needs to be taken care that requires your attention then.