October 13, 2009
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Senate Finance Committee’s Healthcare Reform Bill
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare reform bill was developed with good intentions, but it has serious defects that could jeopardize insurance affordability for both the insured and the uninsured. The only way to truly reform our healthcare system and strengthen our economy is to make health insurance affordable so it is accessible. The Finance Committee’s failure to include a robust national public plan to provide competition to private insurers makes achieving this goal difficult, if not impossible.
The subsidies available in the bill’s health insurance exchanges for the uninsured are inadequate, making the cost of health insurance out of reach for many families and individuals. But affordability doesn’t just affect the uninsured. It also affects the more than 160 million workers and their families, who through negotiations or otherwise, have employer-provided coverage. Over $1,000 from the premium of each family plan—paid by employers and employees—actually subsidizes the cost of the uninsured. The Finance Committee’s bill’s health insurance tax increases will add to these costs and become, in effect, a tax on the middle class.
The mark of true health care reform is that it is affordable, accessible and encourages—not discourages—good and continued coverage for the already insured. These goals cannot be achieved without a public option, nor can they be achieved by increasing the tax burden on middle-class workers with employer-provided coverage.
The AFT will continue to fight for true healthcare reform, and we urge members of Congress to vote only for a bill that provides it.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.